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AESP, Inc. v. Signamax, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

July 8, 2014

AESP, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SIGNAMAX, LLC, Defendant

For AESP, Inc., Signamax, Inc., Plaintiffs: David Zachary Kaufman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kaufman Law Group, Vienna, VA.

For Signamax, LLC, Defendant: Scott Lloyd Smith, LEAD ATTORNEY, Holly Beth Lance, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC (VA), Alexandria, VA.

Page 684

MEMORANDUM OPINION

T. S. Ellis, III, United States District Judge.

In this trademark and copyright infringement case, the parties have disputed the ownership of the trademark at issue--SIGNAMAX CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS--for over seven years, including proceedings in a Czech court and before the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board (" TTAB" ) of the Patent and Trademark Office (" PTO" ). This dispute remains central to the claims in this case. But at issue now is the threshold question of personal jurisdiction, namely, whether defendant's

Page 685

sale of allegedly infringing products from abroad to a United States distributor that, in turn, sells these infringing products nationwide constitutes a sufficient basis for the exercise of personal jurisdiction over defendant in this forum.

For the reasons that follow, the facts alleged in the complaint and the current factual record warrant the conclusion that there is no personal jurisdiction over defendant, and thus, defendant's motion to dismiss must be granted for lack of personal jurisdiction.

I.

A.

Plaintiff AESP, Inc. (" AESP" ) is a Florida corporation in the business of designing, developing, manufacturing, and selling cables for connecting personal computers and peripherals, including printers and disk drives. Plaintiff Signamax, Inc., a Florida corporation, is a wholly owned subsidiary of AESP.

Defendant Signamax, LLC is a District of Columbia limited liability company formed in 2005 by Apron spol s.r.o. (" Apron" ), a Czech corporation. Defendant is engaged in the business of selling network connection components and cabling products.

In 1999, plaintiff AESP acquired the assets, including trademarks, of Communication Components Co., Inc. (" CCCI" ). Prior to the acquisition, CCCI was a corporation that designed, developed, manufactured, and sold structured cabling products, including interconnect cables and various devices used for computer networking. Plaintiffs allege that CCCI developed the SIGNAMAX CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS mark and logo in early 1994 to identify CCCI's line of structured cabling products. In 2000, following plaintiff AESP's acquisition of CCCI's assets, plaintiffs allege that plaintiff AESP began to market and sell CCCI's SIGNAMAX CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS line of structured cabling products.

In 2001, plaintiff AESP purchased Intelek spol s.r.o. (" Intelek" ), a Czech corporation that manufactured Internet equipment and wireless communication hardware. Plaintiff AESP made Intelek its wholly owned subsidiary for the purpose of establishing a market presence in the Czech and Slovak Republics. In 2002, Intelek filed a registration for the term SIGNAMAX CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS with the PTO, and on December 16, 2003, the PTO issued the SIGNAMAX CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS trademark to Intelek.[1]

In September 2004, plaintiff AESP and Intelek entered into an agreement through which Intelek's rights in the Czech trademark registration for SIGNAMAX CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS were transferred to plaintiff AESP. This agreement did not contain a provision that expressly transferred the U.S. trademark registration from Intelek to plaintiff AESP. Plaintiffs allege that this omission was merely a scrivener's error that neither Intelek nor plaintiff AESP noticed at the time, and that the agreement should have contained such a provision because the consideration paid by plaintiff AESP to Intelek pursuant to the agreement included the cost of registering both the Czech ...


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