United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For APP DYNAMIC EHF, Plaintiff: Christine H. Dupriest, Cathy A. Hinger, WOMBLE CARLYLE SANDRIDGE & RICE, LLP, Washington, DC; Henry W. Park, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICE OF HENRY PARK, PC, Valley Cottage, NY.
For ERLING ORMAR VIGNISSON, Defendant: Richard S. Toikka, LEAD ATTORNEY, Russell Owen Paige, FARKAS & TOIKKA LLP, Washington, DC.
JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.
While this case arises from an otherwise commonplace business relationship gone sour, the parties are not the typical ones to enter this Courthouse's doors. On one side stands Plaintiff App Dynamic ehf, an Icelandic computer-startup company; on the other is Defendant Erling Ormar Vignisson, a former employee and an Icelandic citizen living in Sweden. Their falling out has precipitated this suit alleging, inter alia, breach of contract, an invalid U.S. copyright registration, and fraud on the U.S. Copyright Office. In moving to dismiss, Defendant raises three different grounds for jettisoning the case: lack of personal jurisdiction, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim. The Court need look no farther than the first to grant the Motion.
According to the Complaint, which the Court must credit at this stage, App Dynamic was founded by Pratik Kumar and his wife as an Icelandic computer-software-development company that produces applications for both Apple and Microsoft operating systems. See Compl., ¶ ¶ 3, 9. In 2008, Kumar began to develop his first application, called Remote Jr. See id., ¶ ¶ 10-11. The initial version, 1.3, was released in April 2009; Kumar continued to develop the application and released a second
version, 2.0, two months later. Id., ¶ ¶ 12-13.
In August of 2009, he hired Vignisson to handle tasks related to Remote Jr., such as marketing, updating website content, providing customer services, and creating updated graphics and user-interface elements. Id., ¶ 15. A third version, 2.2, was subsequently released during Vignisson's employment on November 10, 2009. Id., ¶ 22. The two men " agreed that Kumar would exclusively own any work created by Defendant related to Remote Jr.& #8482; in performance of his duties, along with any rights, such as copyright, to those works." Id., ¶ 15. Defendant would receive 20% of the profits as compensation, and this agreement was finalized with a handshake. Id. Such memorialization, impressively, seems to be the rule in Iceland.
In April 2010, when Vignisson's work performance did not meet Kumar's standards, Defendant was fired. Id., ¶ 27. Kumar requested that Vignisson deliver the master graphic and icon files of the app in return for payment through the end of April, and the parties agreed to this with another good, old-fashioned handshake. Id. Defendant, however, did not turn over the master files and instead wrote Kumar an email claiming that he Vignisson was a copyright owner of Remote Jr. and demanding additional compensation. Id., ¶ ¶ 28-29.
On June 16, 2011, using these master files, Vignisson registered U.S. Copyright Registration No. VA1-805-490 entitled " Remote Jr. -- iPhone Application Design." Id., ¶ ¶ 33-35, 43. On the registration form, Defendant claimed that he was the copyright owner, did not limit his claim, listed the date of first publication as the date that version 2.2 was released, and certified that all statements were correct. Id., ¶ ¶ 36-38, 42.
On April 26, 2012, Vignisson next sent Apple a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that it stop the sales of Remote HD, a later version of the application that Kumar had developed. Id., ¶ ¶ 30-31, 44. He threatened further action against the company if it did not comply and attached his new U.S. copyright registration. Id., ¶ ¶ 44-45. In March 2014, Vignisson sued Plaintiff and Kumar in the District Court of Reykjaness, Iceland, for allegedly infringing Defendant's new U.S. copyright over Remote Jr. Id., ¶ 48. The suit was dismissed on December 17, 2014. See Opp., Exh. J (Verdict of the District of Reykjanes in case no. E330/2014) at 9.
Plaintiff has responded by filing this action, which alleges the following:
Count I: Breach of contract relating to the oral agreements wherein Defendant assigned copyright interests to Kumar. See Compl., ¶ 54.
Count II: Declaratory judgment that Plaintiff is the copyright owner of the works claimed in U.S. Copyright Registration No. VA 1-805-490. Id., ¶ 62.
Count III: Declaratory judgment that such U.S. copyright registration is invalid. Id., ¶ ¶ 65-66, 68.
Count IV: Declaratory judgment that Defendant committed fraud upon the U.S. Copyright Office when he knowingly falsified material information on his application, which he intended the office to rely upon in granting the copyright registration. Id., ¶ 74.
Vignisson has now filed a Motion to Dismiss. In a rather unorthodox practice, which the Court does not endorse, he filed three separate Memoranda supporting his Motion, one making each of the following arguments: (1) the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1); (2) it further lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant
under Rule 12(b)(2); and (3) Count II of the Complaint does not state a claim upon which relief may be ...