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California Board Sports, Inc., A v. Mark A. Griffin

February 14, 2011

CALIFORNIA BOARD SPORTS, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, ORDER PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARK A. GRIFFIN, AN INDIVIDUAL; G-BAGS, LLC, A PENNSYLVANIA LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge:

The matters before the Court are the Request for Appointment of Counsel for Defendant G-Bags, LLC filed by Defendant Mark A. Griffin ("Griffin") (ECF No. 19), the Motion for a Stay of All Proceedings (ECF No. 21) filed by Griffin, and the Motion for Dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction filed by Griffin (ECF No. 23).

BACKGROUND

On September 3, 2010, Plaintiff California Board Sports, Inc. initiated this action by filing a Complaint and filed an Amended Complaint on September 29, 2010, alleging claims of false designation of origin and false representation, federal trademark infringement, state trademark infringement and unfair competition, and common law trademark infringement and unfair competition against Defendants Mark A. Griffin and G-Bags, LLC. (ECF Nos. 1, 8). On October 14, 2010, Defendant Mark Griffin, filed a Motion requesting an extension of time to respond to the Complaint for himself and G-Bags, LLC, a Pennsylvania limited liability company. (ECF No. 13). The Court granted Defendant Griffin an extension of time to respond to the Complaint and stated: "To date, there has been no appearance in this case by any attorney for either Defendant Griffin or G-Bags, LLC." (ECF No. 18 at 1 (citing Civ. L.R. 83.3(k) which provides: "Only natural persons representing their individual interests in propria persona may appear in court without representation by an attorney .... All other parties, including corporations, partnerships and other legal entities, may appear in court only through an attorney ....")).

On November 12, 2010, Defendant Griffin filed a Request for Appointment of Counsel for Defendant G-Bags, LLC. (ECF No. 19). On November 16, 2010, Defendant Griffin filed a Motion for a Stay of All Proceedings (ECF No. 21) and a Motion for Dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (ECF No. 23).

On December 6, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Griffin's Motion to Dismiss Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Motion to Stay Proceedings. (ECF No. 25).

DISCUSSION

I. Motion for Appointment of Counsel for Defendant G-Bags, LLC

Defendant Mark Griffin, who is proceeding pro se, requests appointment of counsel for Defendant G-Bags, LLC, a limited liability company.

Generally, a person does not have a right to counsel in a civil case. See Campbell v. Burt, 141 F.3d 927, 931 (9th Cir.1998); Ivey v. Board of Regents of the University of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 269 (9th Cir.1982). A federal court does not have the authority to "make coercive appointments of counsel." Mallard v. United States District Court, 490 U.S. 296, 310 (1989). A court has discretion to appoint counsel for indigent civil litigants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1). However, appointment of counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) does not apply to "artificial entities." Rowland v. California Men's Colony, Unit II Men's Advisory Council, 506 U.S. 194, 211 (1993). In addition: "It has been the law for the better part of two centuries ... that a corporation may appear in the federal courts only through licensed counsel." Id. at 201-02. Therefore, Defendant Mark Griffin may not bring this Motion on behalf of Defendant G-Bags, LLC, and even if he could the Motion is DENIED.

II. Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Due to Lack of Personal Jurisdiction

Defendant Mark Griffin seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint due to lack of personal jurisdiction or, alternatively, seeks a transfer of venue to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Griffin has submitted an affidavit and states that he has never been a resident of California, he has not engaged in business transactions in California, he does not conduct activity in California, and the only contact he has had with Plaintiff were emails and phone conversations in an attempt to settle this action.

Plaintiff California Board Sports, Inc. contends that Defendant Griffin has advertised his products for sale on his website www.g-bags.com as well as via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Merchant Circle, Super Pages, and Yellow Pages. Plaintiff contends that by doing so, Defendant Griffin has "clearly marketed and made his products available for purchase by California customers." (ECF No. 25 at 2). Plaintiff contends that Defendant Griffin has sold products in California. Plaintiff contends that prior to this lawsuit, Defendant Griffin, through Ohio counsel, sent Plaintiff a cease and desist letter regarding Plaintiff's use of its trademark G BAGS.

Plaintiff has submitted the abstract of title for the trademark registration of G-BAGS which states that on June 8, 2007, Defendant Mark Griffin applied for the trademark and on March 18, 2008, Defendant Mark Griffin obtained the trademark. Plaintiff has also submitted the assignment of abstract of title which states that on July 23, 2010, Defendant Griffin assigned the G-BAGS mark to G-Bags, LLC.

Plaintiff has submitted the declaration of Joshua J. Richman who states that on September 3, 2010, he purchased a product from Defendant's website www.gbags.com using the "electronic shopping function located on the website." (ECF No. 25-1 at 1). Richman states in his declaration that on September 13, 2010, Defendant Griffin sent him an email confirming the order and stating that the product had been shipped. Id. Richman has attached the email and receipt showing that the order was shipped to his San Diego address. Id. at 4-5. Richman has also submitted copies of G-Bag's Facebook page, Twitter messages, and YouTube page containing advertisements for products offered by G-Bags. The Facebook page contains photo albums of G-Bag products created on September 16, 2009, posts describing the products and providing the website address www.gbags.com, and invitations to participate in monthly contests by "following" Defendant's Twitter account to win free G-Bags products dated from June 11, 2009 through February 10, 2010. Id. at 11-17. The Twitter messages include product videos and commercials, links to other websites which carry G-Bags products, links to the website address www.gbags.com, and invitations to participate in contests by "following" Defendant's Twitter account to win free G-Bags products dated from March 25, 2009 through July 4, 2010. Id. at 19-170. The YouTube page contains videos of G-Bags products. Id. at 172. One video dated ...


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