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Dover IP, LLC v. Dover Development Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 22, 2017

DOVER IP, LLC and DOVER Development, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
DOVER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, f/k/a FAMILY PRIDE CORPORATION, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Dover Development, LLC, is a Missouri-headquartered company which develops and constructs senior living communities. In 2013, Dover Development registered the trademark, “Dover Development, ” which it assigned to plaintiff Dover IP, LLC. Plaintiffs allege defendant Dover Development Corporation, f/k/a Family Pride Corporation, has infringed upon plaintiffs' Trademark and caused confusion in Missouri's senior housing marketplace. Plaintiffs bring claims of trademark infringement and unfair competition against defendant. Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiffs' claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because defendant lacks sufficient minimal contacts with Missouri to satisfy due process, I will dismiss this case without prejudice.

         Legal Standards

         The party invoking jurisdiction of a federal court bears the burden to show that jurisdiction exists. May Dept. Stores Co. v. Wilansky, 900 F.Supp. 1154, 1159 (E.D. Mo. 1995) (citing Mountaire Feeds, Inc. v. Agro Impex, S.A., 677 F.2d 651, 653 (8th Cir. 1982)). To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff is only required to make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Digi-tel Holdings, Inc. v. Proteq Telecommunications (PTE), Ltd., 89 F.3d 519, 522 (8th Cir. 1996). If the district court relies on pleadings and affidavits, the court must look at the facts in the light most favorable to the party invoking personal jurisdiction, and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of that party. Dakota Industries, Inc. v. Dakota Sportswear, Inc., 946 F.2d 1384, 1387 (8th Cir. 1991) (citing Watlow Electric Mfg. Co. v. Patch Rubber Co., 838 F.2d 999, 1000 (8th Cir. 1988). With these standards in mind, I review the facts in this case.

         Factual Background

         Plaintiff Dover Development, LLC, an Illinois limited liability company, is a multi-state development company specializing in developing and constructing senior living communities. Plaintiff Dover IP, LLC is a Missouri limited liability company. Defendant Dover Development, f/k/a Family Pride Corporation, is a Tennessee corporation with its principal place of business in Knoxville, Tennessee.

         Defendant is a real estate development company that renovates properties and converts them into senior housing.

         In 2012, Dover Development started developing senior living communities under the trade name “Dover Development.” In 2013, Dover Development registered the “Dover Development” trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). In 2016, Dover Development assigned the Trademark to Dover IP. Dover IP then licensed the use of the Trademark to Dover Development.

         Defendant operated under the Family Pride Corporation trade name in Tennessee for over twenty years. In 2014, defendant changed its name to Dover Development Corporation by a filing with the Tennessee Secretary of State. Defendant is managed by Richard Dover and develops senior housing exclusively in Tennessee.

         Plaintiff Dover IP learned of defendant's use of the “Dover Development” name when it tried to register its trade name for a web platform. Plaintiffs sent defendant a letter demanding defendant cease and desist operating under the Trademark. After receiving this letter, defendant's lawyers made a phone call to Missouri and sent an email received by plaintiffs in Missouri. Defendant continued to use the Dover Development name.

         In their complaint, plaintiffs allege defendant's infringement of their Trademark and trade name created confusion in the marketplace. Plaintiffs contend this confusion was caused by defendant's operation of its website, www.doverdevelopment.net. In support of their contention, plaintiffs allege a local Illinois news website, Patch.com, erroneously reported that plaintiffs renovate neglected properties. Plaintiffs assert that because they only develop new facilities, Patch.com must have made this error by consulting defendant's website. The website also states that defendant restores and renovates neglected properties.

         Plaintiffs assert five counts alleging trademark infringement and unfair competition against defendant. The complaint states this Court has personal jurisdiction over defendant because defendant knowingly directed its tortious conduct to Missouri with the intent to infringe on plaintiffs' intellectual property and cause harm in Missouri. Defendant moves to dismiss this action upon the grounds that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over defendant.

         Discussion

         In order to subject a defendant to a court's personal jurisdiction, due process requires that the defendant have certain minimum contacts with the state, such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Wash., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). There are two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, ...


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