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Augusta National, Inc. v. Green Jacket Auctions, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

February 8, 2018

AUGUSTA NATIONAL, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GREEN JACKET AUCTIONS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          J. RANDAL HALL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court are three motions: (1) Defendant's motion to dismiss for improper venue (doc. 37); (2) Defendant's alternative motion to transfer to the District of New Jersey (doc. 37); and (3) Plaintiff's motion to seal (doc. 19). The Court DENIES Defendant's motion to dismiss and motion to transfer. It GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion to seal.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff owns and operates the Augusta National Golf Club (''Augusta National") and the Masters Tournament (the "Masters") . Defendant is an online auctioneer of golf memorabilia that has a history of selling items related to Augusta National and the Masters. On August 2, 2011, Defendant listed for auction on its website the following pieces of memorabilia related to Augusta National and the Masters (collectively, the "Items"): (1) the "Butler Jacket, " the "Nelson Jacket, " and the "King Jacket" (collectively, the "Jackets"); (2) silverware bearing Plaintiff's trademarked map and flag logo (the "Silverware"); and a belt buckle also bearing Plaintiff's trademarked map and flag logo (the "Buckle").

         On August 14, 2017, Plaintiff filed suit in this Court asserting various causes of action. (Doc. 1.) First, it requested declaratory relief with respect to the issue of title to the Jackets and the Silverware. (Id. at 10.) Second, it asserted a claim for trover with respect to the Jackets and the Silverware and demanded their return. (Id. at 11.) Third, it asserted trademark infringement related to the auction of the Buckle. (Id.) Fourth, it asserted a false advertising claim related to Defendant's marketing of the Items. (Id. at 16.) Fifth, it sought "an injunction prohibiting Defendant from making false statements about [Plaintiff], using [Plaintiff's] trademarks, and selling [Plaintiff's] property." (Id. at 18.)

         Contemporaneously with its complaint, Plaintiff also filed a motion for preliminary injunction to prohibit Defendant from auctioning the Items. (Doc. 4.) On August 17, 2017, this Court held a hearing on the motion and granted the requested relief. (Doc. 16.) It also heard an oral motion by Plaintiff to seal certain documents entered into evidence by Defendant. The Court granted Plaintiff's oral motion, but ordered Plaintiff to file a written motion for its consideration. (Doc. 15.)

         On September 11, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b) . (Doc. 25.) In the alternative, Defendant requested the Court transfer the case to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ("New Jersey") . (Id. at 9.) Defendant also requested the Court dismiss any potential dilution claim Plaintiff might have asserted in its complaint.[1] (Id. at 16.)

         On October 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 31.) First, Plaintiff alleges trademark infringement with respect to the Items. (Id. at 13.) Second, it alleges trademark dilution with respect to all Items. (Id. at 15.) Third, it alleges trademark infringement with respect to Defendant's website and social media marketing. (Id. at 19.) Fourth, it requests declaratory relief to determine title to the Jackets and the Silverware. (Id. at 22.) Fifth, it alleges the tort of trover with respect to the Items. (Id. at 23.) Sixth, it alleges false advertising against Defendant under the Lantham Act. (Id.) Seventh, it requests an injunction to prevent Defendant "from making false statements about [Plaintiff], using [Plaintiff's] trademarks, and selling [Plaintiff's] property." (Id. at 25.)

         On October 16, 2017, Defendant filed a new motion to dismiss in response to Plaintiff's amended complaint. (Doc. 37.) Defendant once again sought to dismiss the case for improper venue, or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to New Jersey. It did not, however, move to dismiss Plaintiff's dilution claim.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion -to Dismiss for Improper Venue

         Defendant first asks this Court to dismiss this action for improper venue. Venue in this case is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1391. Section 1391(b)(1)-(3) establishes three categories of districts in which a plaintiff may properly bring suit:

(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located;
(2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated; or
(3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.

         Venue is always proper in any district that fits the requirements of either the first or second categories. Venue is proper in a district that fits the third category, however, only when no other district fits the requirements of the first two categories. Atl. Marine Constr. Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court for W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S.Ct. 568, 578 (2013). Thus, the third category is "a fallback option: If no other venue is proper, then venue will lie in 'any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction.'" Id. (emphasis in original).

         Plaintiff chose to file in the Southern District of Georgia, therefore the Court must first determine whether this District is a proper venue under § 1391(b). Plaintiff asserts that its choice of venue is proper because: (1) Defendant "resides" in this District under § 1391(b)(1); and (2) a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims occurred in this District under § 1391(b)(2). Defendant challenges both assertions. The Court finds that venue is proper because Defendant "resides" in this District under § 1391(b)(1).

         Section 1391(c) defines residency for venue purposes. It states that a corporation "shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). Plaintiff asserts that Defendant waived its right to challenge this Court's personal jurisdiction when it omitted that defense in its first Rule 12 motion challenging venue. (Doc. 48 at 7.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant's waiver makes it "subject to" this Court's personal jurisdiction, and thus Defendant "resides" in this District under § 1391(b)(1). (Id.) Defendant, however, argues that venue and personal jurisdiction are separate defenses, thus "waiver of a personal jurisdiction defense does not automatically constitute a waiver regarding venue." (Doc. 37 at 4.)

         As an initial matter, the Court agrees that Defendant waived its right to challenge personal jurisdiction. "[A] party's right to dispute personal jurisdiction is waived if the party fails to assert that objection in its first Rule 12 motion, other responsive pleading or general appearance." Oldfield v. Pueblo De Bahia Lora, S.A., 558 F.3d 1210, 1218 n.21 (11th Cir. 2009) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)). Defendant did not challenge personal jurisdiction at the hearing for a preliminary injunction or in either of its Rule 12 motions challenging venue. Thus, Defendant waived any challenge to personal jurisdiction and is subject to this Court's personal jurisdiction.

         The question, then, is whether a defendant who consents to personal jurisdiction by virtue of waiver is "subject to" that court's personal jurisdiction for purposes of section 1391(c)(2) and thus "resides" in that court's district under § 1391(b)(1).

         The Court begins with the text of § 1391(c). See BP Am. Prod. Co. v. Burton, 549 U.S. 84, 91 (2006) ("We start, of course, with the statutory text."). Section 1391(c)(2) states that a corporation "shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). Section 1391(c) (2) says nothing about how or when a party must become "subject to" the court's personal jurisdiction. It states only that a defendant corporation resides in a district if it is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction. Thus, "subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil ...


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