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Leapers, Inc. v. Banerjee

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 31, 2017

LEAPERS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
ADRISH BANERJEE, CATHERINE YAN HE a citizen of China, PATRIOT INDUSTRY, MINDPOWER WORLDWIDE, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS OR ALTERNATIVELY, TRANSFER CASE

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss Complaint or Alternatively, Transfer Case, filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), 12(b)(3), and 12(b)(6) by Defendants Adrish Banerjee (“Banerjee”), Catherine Yan He (“He”), Patriot Industry (“Patriot”), and Mindpower Worldwide, Inc. (“Worldwide”) (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff Leapers, Inc. (“Leapers”) initiated this lawsuit, alleging Defendants violated the Indiana Crime Victim's Relief Act (“ICVRA”), Ind. Code § 34-24-3-1, which prohibits conversion, theft, forgery, counterfeiting, and criminal mischief. (Filing No. 1.) Specifically, Leapers contends that Defendants violated the ICVRA by unlawfully selling riflescopes in Indiana that bear trademarks, markings, and unique symbols of identification belonging to Leapers. Id. On July 13, 2016, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss, asserting that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over them, venue in the Southern District of Indiana is improper, and Leapers' Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim. (Filing No. 20.) In the alternative, Defendants argue that the Court should issue an order transferring this case to the District of Nevada, Southern Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). Id. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, but GRANTS Defendants' alternative request to transfer this case to the Southern Division of Nevada.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Leapers is a Michigan corporation that manufactures and sells shooting and hunting gear across the United States, as well as internationally. Banerjee and He are Nevada residents who own and operate Patriot, a Nevada company that sells shooting, hunting, camping and fishing related products at www.patriotindustry.com. Banerjee and He also own and operate Worldwide, a Nevada company engaged in construction project management. This case derives from Defendants' selling and shipping riflescopes, developed and designed by Leapers, into Indiana.

         At some point prior to July 24, 2014, Leapers hired Continental Enterprises (“Continental”), an Indiana corporation, to investigate unauthorized third-party uses of Leapers' intellectual property rights[1] in its riflescopes. On July 24, 2014, Continental performed internet searches and learned that Patriot sold riflescopes developed and designed by Leapers at www.patriotindustry.com. The website states that it is the “One Stop Tactical Gear Shop” and is “an American Business serving American Patriots.” (Filing No. 37-1 at 9.) Continental then purchased and received two shipments of riflescopes from Defendants' website and arranged for Patriot to ship the items to Indiana. Continental paid for the two purchases through Worldwide's PayPal account and received the shipments on August 8, 2014 and September 9, 2014. A Continental employee, Kyle Wilson, also travelled to Nevada to meet with Defendants as part of the investigation.

         Thereafter, with the help of Indiana's Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office, Leapers arranged for the arrest of Banerjee and He during a trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. After spending one month in Las Vegas Detention Center, Banerjee and He were extradited to Indiana and subjected to criminal charges. The criminal case against Banerjee and He was ultimately dismissed and, thereafter, Banerjee and He brought a civil action against Leapers in the District of Nevada, asserting that Leapers significantly damaged their business when Leapers arranged for their arrest in front of current and potential customers at the trade show.

         On April 8, 2016, Leapers filed a Complaint in this Court, contending that it did not give Defendants permission to manufacture, produce, advertise, or sell any item using Leapers' riflescope design in Indiana, or elsewhere. (Filing No. 1.) Leapers alleges that Defendants' sale of the riflescopes violates Leapers' rights under the ICVRA, which prohibits conversion, theft, forgery, counterfeiting, and criminal mischief. On July 13, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss Leapers' Complaint asserting that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over Defendants, venue in the Southern District of Indiana is improper, and Leapers' Complaint fails to state a cognizable claim. (Filing No. 20.) In the alternative, Defendants assert that the Court should issue an order transferring the case to the District of Nevada, Southern Division, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1404(a). Thereafter, on October 16, 2016, Defendants' Nevada action was dismissed without prejudice.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides: “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought.” “Transfer is appropriate under this section where the moving party establishes that (1) venue is proper in the transferor district, (2) venue is proper in the transferee district, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, and the interests of justice.” Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft v. Dee Eng'g, Inc., No. 1:02-CV-1669-LJM, 2003 WL 1089515, at *1 (S.D. Ind. Mar. 4, 2003) (citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Venue is Proper in Both Districts

         As an initial matter, in order for transfer to be appropriate under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), venue must be proper in both the transferor and transferee districts. See Dee Eng'g, Inc, 2003 WL 1089515, at *2. There is no dispute that venue is proper in the Southern Division of Nevada, however, Defendants dispute that venue is proper in the Southern District of Indiana. Defendants argue that their contacts with Indiana are minimal, random acts that are not strong enough to establish proper venue. The Court disagrees with Defendants' contention and finds that venue is proper in Indiana. Under § 1391, a civil action may be brought in “a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391. The basis of Leapers' claim before this Court is that Defendants violated Indiana state law and caused Leapers' injuries when they sold and shipped riflescopes to an Indiana resident. Accordingly, venue is proper in the Southern District of Indiana, and the Court is now left to determine whether this case should be transferred based on convenience.

         B. Convenience and the Interests of Justice

         Defendants argue that the Court should transfer this case to the District of Nevada, Southern Division, because Nevada best serves the convenience of the parties, the witnesses, and the interest of justice. Leapers contends that a transfer of venue would merely shift any alleged inconvenience. Generally, the plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to substantial deference. However, the plaintiff's choice of forum is given less deference when the plaintiff chooses to litigate outside its home forum. Dee Eng'g, Inc, 2003 WL 1089515, at *2. Leapers is incorporated and has its principal place of business in Michigan, and all of Leapers' employees are located in Michigan. (Filing No. 37-3 ...


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