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LegalForce RAPC Worldwide, P.C. v. Trademark Information International LLC

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 25, 2018

LEGALFORCE RAPC WORLDWIDE, P.C., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TRADEMARK INFORMATION INTERNATIONAL LLC, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT; DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS INITIAL COMPLAINT; AFFORDING PLAINTIFFS LEAVE TO AMEND; CONTINUING CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE RE: DKT. NO. 25, 42

          MAXINE M. CHESNEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion, filed April 6, 2018, by defendants Trademarks Information International LLC ("TM411"), Nicholas Greenside ("Greenside"), Stephen W. Erickson ("Erickson"), and Rogers, Sheffield & Campbell, LLP ("RS&C"), "to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint."[1] Plaintiffs LegalForce RAPC Worldwide, P.C. and LegalForce, Inc. have filed opposition, to which defendants have replied. Having read and considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, the Court rules as follows.[2]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs allege that TM411 "operat[es] the website Trademarks411.com" (see First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶ 4), through which it offers "trademark filing services" (see FAC at 2:8). Plaintiffs further allege that Greenside and Erickson are "owner[s]" of TM411 (see FAC ¶¶ 5-6), and that Erickson is the "Managing Partner" of RS&C, a law firm (see FAC ¶ 3). According to plaintiffs, defendants have violated the Lanham Act, as well as §§ 17200 and 17500 of the California Business & Professions Code by making "false and misleading" statements on TM411's website and in its "[a]d copy" (see FAC ¶ 53), and, in addition, have violated § 17200 by engaging in other types of assertedly wrongful conduct (see, e.g., FAC ¶ 76).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a)(2), however, "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Consequently, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations." See id. Nonetheless, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." See id. (internal quotation, citation, and alteration omitted).

         In analyzing a motion to dismiss, a district court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual material, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation and citation omitted).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue each of plaintiffs' claims is subject to dismissal. The Court considers the claims in turn.

         A. First Claim for Relief ("False Advertising and Unfair Competition[;] The Lanham Act")

         The Lanham Act prohibits any person from using, "on or in connection with any goods or services, . . . any . . . false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which . . . misrepresents the nature, characteristics [or] quality . . . of his or her or another person's goods, services, or commercial activities." See 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1).

         Plaintiff's Lanham Act claim is based on five allegedly "false and misleading" statements made by TM411. Defendants argue that all of the challenged statements are non-actionable, and, additionally, that plaintiffs have failed to plead any facts to support a finding that Greenside, Erickson, or RS&C can be held liable for any statement made by TM411.

         1. False Statement of Fact

         To be actionable under the Lanham Act, the defendant's representation must be a "statement[ ] of fact" that is false or misleading. See Cook, Perkiss & Liehe, Inc. Northern California Collection Service Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 244 ...


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