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Cinematix, LLC v. Einthusan

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 15, 2020

CINEMATIX, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
EINTHUSAN, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS ON THE GROUNDS OF FORUM NON CONVENIENS DOCKET NOS. 53, 64, 73

          EDWARD M. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         All parties are in the film industry. Defendants are Lotus Five Star, LTD (“Lotus”), Leo India Films, LTD (“Leo”), and Arun Shanmuganathan (collectively, the “Defendants”). Plaintiffs are Cinematix, LLC, AP International, Home Screen Entertainment, FZE, Home Screen Entertainment, PTE. Ltd. (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”). Plaintiffs' first amended complaint (“FAC”) alleges copyright infringement based on Defendants' streaming websites. Docket No. 44. Pending before the Court are Lotus and Shanmuganathan's motion to dismiss the FAC on the grounds of (1) lack of personal jurisdiction; (2) insufficient service of process; and (3) forum non conveniens. Docket Nos. 53. The second motion to dismiss was filed by Leo; it only moves for dismissal on forum non conveniens. Docket No. 64. Also pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion to strike Leo's reply brief because it contains evidentiary objections. Docket No. 73.

         For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motions to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds are GRANTED because Defendants identified an adequate alternative forum (e.g., Canada) and the public and private factors heavily favor litigating this dispute in Canada. However, this decision is conditioned on Defendants accepting service of process in Canada.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs are companies that “distribute, sell, publicly perform and display, and license a significant portion of all legitimate Tamil-language motion pictures in this country and across the globe.” TAC ¶ 1. According to Plaintiffs, Defendants own and operate websites[1] that “are dedicated to the piracy of copyrighted motion pictures.” Id. ¶ 3. These websites “upload, store, host, disseminate, distribute, sell, publicly perform and display, and otherwise illegally make available copyrighted motion pictures from their servers . . . .” Id.

         The Einthusan websites were created in 2011 by a Canadian company called Paperboard Innovations, and the websites were eventually sold to Lotus. Docket No. 53 (“Mot.”) at 2. Lotus contends that it secured licenses for each of the films in its library. Id. In 2017, Lotus sold its brand name and trademarks (e.g., the “Einthusan” name) to Leo. Id.

         None of the parties are domiciled in California or have their principle place of business in California. Lotus and Leo are Canadian limited liability companies that have their principle place of business in Toronto, Canada. Mot. at 1; Docket No. 64 (“Leo Mot.”) at 1. Mr. Shanmuganathan is a resident of Sri Lanka, but occasionally travels to Canada. Mot. at 1. Plaintiff Cinematix is the only United States entity, and it is located in the state of Washington. Mot. at 22. The remaining plaintiffs are foreign to the United States. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs filed this action in May 2019. Docket No. 1. After failed attempts to serve Defendants, Plaintiffs moved for permission to effectuate service of process on Defendants by alternative means (e-mail) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 4. Docket No. 8. Judge Corley granted Plaintiffs' motion. Docket No. 14. Thereafter, Defendants specially appeared and filed motions to dismiss. Docket Nos. 27-30. Plaintiffs amended their complaint as of right, Docket No. 44, and Defendants withdrew those motions. Docket No. 51. Lotus and Mr. Shanmuganathan specially appeared again and filed their current motion to dismiss. At this time, Leo had not yet been served with the FAC. Once Leo received service, it filed its motion to dismiss.

         II.DISCUSSION

         A party moving to dismiss based on forum non conveniens bears the burden of showing that (1) there is an adequate alternative forum, and (2) the balance of private and public interest factors favors dismissal. See Lueck v. Sundstrand Corp., 236 F.3d 1137, 1142-43 (9th Cir. 2001). A domestic plaintiffs forum choice is entitled to considerable deference, whereas a foreign plaintiffs forum choice is entitled to less deference. Ravelo Monegro v. Rosa, 211 F.3d 509, 513 (9th Cir.2000) (citing Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 256 (1981)). The plaintiffs choice of forum will not be disturbed unless the private and public interest factors strongly favor trial in the foreign country. See Gates Learjet Corp. v. Jensen, 743 F.2d 1325, 1334 (9th Cir. 1984).

         A. Adequate Alternative Forum

         Defendants are amenable to service in Canada. Mot. at 20. Plaintiffs argue that Shanmuganathan is only “agreeable” to service in Canada. Docket No. 58 (“Opp.”) at 18. Based on this, Plaintiffs suspect that Defendants will avoid service in Canada if this Court dismisses the case on forum non conveniens grounds because Plaintiffs have requested Defendants' Canadian addresses but have ...


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