Judge Robinson grants motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over Japanese corporation and dismisses joint infringement claims against other defendants
In Intellectual Ventures I LLC, et al. v. Nikon Corporation, et al., C.A. No. 11-1025-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 1, 2013), Judge Sue L. Robinson granted one defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and granted-in-part the remaining defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ indirect infringement claims.
Plaintiffs had sued four entities, all of which “are ‘Nikon Group Companies’ within . . . [defendant] Nikon Corporation.” Id. at 7. One of the defendants, Sendai, was a Japanese corporation that “manufacturers DSLR cameras and sells them to” Nikon Corporation, its parent that is also a Japanese corporation. Id. While the cameras were then sold in the United States, and Nikon Corporation and another co-defendant “maintain websites in English targeting the United States” and Delaware, Sendai itself conducted no business in the United States. Id. at 6, 7.
Plaintiffs argued that the Court had personal jurisdiction over Sendai based on “several theories,” all of which the Court rejected. Id. at 6. First, because Sendai was not a principal in an agency relationship with any co-defendants, but instead its “conduct [was] directed by its parent,” and because its conduct was “limited to activities in Japan,” plaintiffs had “not asserted sufficient contacts to establish personal jurisdiction” under an agency theory. Id. at 8-9. Second, plaintiffs could not assert jurisdiction “under a dual jurisdiction theory for stream-of-commerce activities in which subsection (1) and (4) of Delaware’s long-arm statute are partially satisfied,” which required a showing of “an intent to serve the Delaware market” and “that this intent results in the introduction of the product into the market.” Id. at 9 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). There was no indication that “Sendai ha[d] the requisite intent” to sell the cameras in Delaware because its manufacturing and sales were directed to its parent in Japan, its website was in Japanese, and “the cameras themselves offer menus in 20 languages and world time zones.” Id. at 10. “The court has not heretofore exerted dual jurisdiction over a foreign subsidiary based on such attenuated facts, and declines to do so in this case.” Id.
As to indirect infringement, the Court found that, “[c]onsistent with the court’s analysis" in Walker Digital LLC v. Facebook, Inc., 852 F. Supp. 2d 559, 565-66 (D. Del. 2012), plaintiffs’ induced infringement claims were facially plausible and provided defendants with adequate notice. Id. at 11. However it dismissed plaintiffs’ joint infringement claims. Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants “act[ed] alone and together to infringe,” with Nikon Corporation acting “as a mastermind over the other defendants and/or its customers.” Id. at 12. But as claims against Sendai had been dismissed, plaintiffs could not support joint infringement by alleging “Nikon Corporation, as a parent company, controls the distribution of the accused products manufactured by Sendai.” Id. Additionally, “[p]laintiffs [had] not alleged any relationship between the remaining defendants that could plausibly lead to a showing that Nikon Corporation exercises control or direction over its co-defendants.” Id.