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Solomon v. University of Southern California

July 15, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge


Pro se Plaintiff Dennis Solomon brings this complaint alleging various causes of action relating to his trademark application for the term "HoloDeck" against ten organizations and individuals.*fn1 Pending before the Court are Defendant University of Southern California's ("USC") and Defendant Evans & Sutherland's ("E&S") motions to dismiss. Upon consideration of the motions, responses, and replies thereto, and applicable law, the Court GRANTS both motions to dismiss.

I. Background

Plaintiff alleges that since 1989 he has been developing a 3D imaging technology, which he termed "HoloDeck." Compl. ¶¶ 1, 13-16. Solomon alleges that in 1993 he applied for a class 9 trademark to the term "HoloDeck" for virtual reality rooms, and that on December 13, 1996, E&S, a Utah corporation that develops visual display systems, also filed a class 9 application to trademark "HOLODECK." Compl. ¶¶ 4, 16-18. Solomon asserts that on May 30, 2000 the Trademark Office granted his trademark application. Compl. ¶ 19.

According to Solomon, on or about 1999, USC, a nonprofit educational institution, received a grant from the United States Army to build a "holographic, virtual reality space," also called "holodeck." Compl. ¶¶ 2, 24. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ("TTAB") granted USC leave to belatedly oppose Solomon's trademark application on the grounds that the term "HoloDeck" was generic. Ultimately, the TTAB entered a default judgment against Solomon, and denied his trademark application. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 30; USC Mot. to Dismiss at 3.

In the present complaint, Solomon brings the following claims against the defendants: (1) Count I alleges a violation of civil rights and due process by the TTAB; (2) Count II challenges USC's standing to oppose the trademark application before the TTAB; (3) Count III alleges USC and other defendants (including E&S) attempted to monopolize some aspect of the technology at issue and interfere with interstate commerce; (4) Count IV alleges USC "defrauded the U.S. Government by submitting proposals based on unlawful [sic] obtained designs of Solomon"; and (5) Count V alleges USC and a U.S. Army officer conspired to interfere with business relations and engaged in unfair competition by opposing Solomon's trademark application.*fn2 Compl. ¶¶ 15, 32-43.

Solomon requests the Court grant him the following relief: (1) vacate the TTAB default judgment; (2) find USC without standing to oppose the trademark application; (3) allow the grant of the HoloDeck trademark to Solomon to stand; and (4) award damages. Compl. at 6.

USC filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the doctrine of res judicata bars the complaint.*fn3 E&S also moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint fails to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

II. Standard of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), dismissal is appropriate where the plaintiff fails to "state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Under Rule 8(a), a claim need only be a "short and plain statement of the claim" that will give a defendant "fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). See also Aktieselskabet AF 21 Nov. 2001 v. Fame Jeans, 525 F.3d 8, 15 (D.C. Cir. 2008); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). "The purpose of the rule is to give fair notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer, prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata is applicable." Brown v. Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497, 498 (D.D.C. 1977).

A court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Kassem v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 513 F.3d 251, 253 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007)). All "reasonable inferences alleged" are construed in plaintiff's favor. In re Sealed Case, 494 F.3d 139, 145 (D.C. Cir. 2007). In considering a motion to dismiss, a court may consider "matters of a general public nature, such as court records, without converting the motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment." See Baker v. Henderson, 150 F. Supp. 2d 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2001) (citations omitted).

B. Pro se Litigants

The pleadings of pro se parties "[are] to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson, 127 S.Ct. at 2200 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Nonetheless, "[a]lthough a court will read a pro se plaintiff's complaint liberally, a pro se complaint, [no less than any other complaint], must present a claim on which the Court can grant relief." ...

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