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Fat Cat Trademark Lawsuit Won't be Decided in Washington

Fat Cat Mustard, LLC, sued Fat Cat Gourmet Foods, LLC, for trademark infringement in the Western District at Tacoma.

The case isn’t staying here.

On November 2, Judge Benjamin Settle dismissed the suit because the defendant did not have the required “minimum contacts” with this district to make personal jurisdiction constitutionally fair.

In support of its motion to dismiss, Gourmet’s managing member filed a declaration stating its records only revealed one shipment to Washington, which she said was made because a Florida customer did not want to travel with the bottle on her way to Washington.

The court found that was not enough to support personal jurisdiction.

“In this case, Mustard asserts that the Court has specific jurisdiction based on Gourmet’s and Gourmet’s distributors’ websites, the shipment of one jar of sauce to Washington, and Gourmet’s cease and desist letters. With regard to the websites, it appears to be uncontested that individuals in Washington could access a website and order Gourmet’s products. Mustard, however, has failed to even allege that any individual in Washington has completed such a transaction. Therefore, Mustard is required to show ‘something more.’ See Pebble Beach Co. v. Caddy, 453 F.3d 1151, 1155–1159 (9th Cir.2006). Mustard offers the letters and the shipment as the ‘something more.’

“First, the cease and desist letters are not ‘something more.’ Mustard has failed to show that the letters caused any harm whatsoever. Moreover, Mustard fails to cite any authority for its proposition that a federally granted property right, such as a trademark, subjects the owner to personal jurisdiction in every forum in which the right may be enforced.

“Second, Mustard misconstrues Gourmet’s transaction. [Gourmet’s managing member] declares that the purchaser was a ‘Florida customer’ who requested that the bottle be shipped to Washington ‘so she didn’t have to travel with it.’ This does not show that Gourmet ‘engaged in commercial activity in Washington’ as Mustard contends. Therefore, based on the record before the Court, Mustard has failed to show that Gourmet ‘purposely availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in’ Washington.”

The court found the other elements needed to establish personal jurisdiction were similarly lacking.

“In this case, Gourmet has made a compelling case that the exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable. Gourmet’s interjection into Washington is de minimus, if any purposeful interjection exists at all. Being a Florida based corporation, Gourmet would suffer a significant burden defending itself in Washington. The parties concede that there is no conflict between Washington and Florida. Washington has no interest in adjudicating the propriety of a non-resident company’s trademark when there is no evidence that a sale was actually consummated in Washington or that there is a likelihood of confusion by Washington consumer. Neither forum appears to be the most efficient for judicial resolution because it does not appear that the parties compete in either Florida or Washington. While Washington may be a more convenient forum for Mustard, it has failed to show that Gourmet purposely interjects itself into Washington and causes harm. Finally, alternative forums exist if either party chooses to bring the action where the defending party is subject to personal jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court finds that Gourmet has shown that it would be unreasonable for the Court to assert personal jurisdiction in this matter.”

The case cite is Fat Cat Mustard, LLC v. Fat Cat Gourmet Foods, LLC, No. 12-5663, 2012 WL 5389149 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 2, 2012) (Settle, J.).

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