United States District Court, District of Columbia
N. MCFADDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
NA, Inc., sells tactical ground robotics systems to United
States government agencies including all branches of the
military, the Department of Homeland Security, and the
Federal Bureau of Investigation. Endeavor Robotics competes
with Robo-Team for government contracts in this field.
According to Robo-Team, Endeavor Robotics hired Sachem, a
defense-focused lobbying firm, to spread a false rumor that
the Chinese government controls Robo-Team and uses it to
steal military technology from the United States. Robo-Team
has sued Endeavor Robotics and Sachem for defamation,
tortious interference with contractual and other business
relationships, civil conspiracy, and unfair competition. Both
Defendants moved to dismiss Robo-Team's claims under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Both Defendants also argued
that Robo-Team's lawsuit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against
Public Participation, or SLAPP, and have moved to dismiss the
case under the District of Columbia's Anti-SLAPP statute,
which provides for the recovery of costs. Because this Court
lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants, the motions
to dismiss under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will be
granted and the Anti-SLAPP motions will be dismissed.
is a subsidiary of an Israeli company and has its principal
place of business in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Compl. ¶ 8.
Endeavor has its principal place of business in Chelmsford,
Massachusetts, but conducts business with the United States
government in the District of Columbia. Id. at
¶¶ 9, 12. Sachem has its principal place of
business in Boston, Massachusetts, but conducts lobbying
activities in the District of Columbia. Id. at
¶¶ 10, 13.
alleges that it has been competing with Endeavor for
government contracts since at least 2014, and that Endeavor
has been spreading false information about Robo-Team during
that time. Id. at ¶¶ 16-17. Robo-Team
alleges that Endeavor's “campaign of defamatory
statements” intensified after Robo-Team defeated
Endeavor in a competition for a particularly significant
contract with the Air Force in 2015 and then declined
Endeavor's proposals to partner on future federal bids
and other projects. Id. at ¶¶ 17-19.
2016 and early 2017 the Army began the competitive process
for awarding two of the biggest robotics contracts offered by
the military in the last 15 years. Id. at
¶¶ 20-21. Each contract was worth hundreds of
millions of dollars. Id. Robo-Team alleges that
Endeavor hired Sachem to damage Robo-Team's reputation
and prevent it from competing successfully for these
contracts, for other business, and for future federal
contracts, including one contract that is expected to have a
value of approximately $1 billion. Id. at ¶ 24.
Sachem prepared a memorandum that was distributed on Capitol
Hill and that included in its discussion of “Foreign
Threats” a description of Robo-Team's alleged
connections with China and alleged violation of International
Traffic in Arms Regulations. Id. at ¶ 23;
see also Id. Ex. 1.
allegations in Sachem's memorandum were repeated in a
letter from Congressman Seth Moulton to Frank Kendall, the
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and
Logistics, asking that “the Department of the Army . .
. carefully examine the evidence of Chinese influence when
considering award of [the two major contracts mentioned
above].” Id. at ¶¶ 27-29; see
also Id. Ex. 2. They also appear to be echoed in a
letter to Undersecretary Kendall that was signed by six other
Members of Congress and circulated with supporting materials
about Robo-Team's connections with China. Id. at
¶¶ 31-33; see also Id. Ex. 3. At least one
Endeavor employee told one of Robo-Team's government
contracting customers that the company had been purchased by
the Chinese government. Id. at ¶ 25.
alleges that the rumors Endeavor and Sachem spread damaged
Robo-Team's customer relationships and good will, delayed
orders and contracts, and forced Robo-Team to spend countless
hours on damage control with current and prospective clients.
Id. at ¶¶ 37. More specifically, Robo-Team
alleged in June 2017 that it was still in the process of
responding to a series of complex Requests for Information
issued by the Department of State and the Department of
Defense in February 2017, that dozens of current and
prospective clients had reported concerns about
Endeavor's allegations about Robo-Team's connections
with the Chinese government, and that it had also had to deal
with an inquiry by the Wall Street Journal. Id. at
sued Endeavor and Sachem for defamation, tortious
interference with contractual and other business
relationships, civil conspiracy, and unfair competition.
Id. at 11-14. Before me now are four motions to
dismiss, two by each Defendant. Each Defendant has moved
under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss
Robo-Team's claims for lack of jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim. Each Defendant has also moved to
dismiss under the District of Columbia's Anti-SLAPP
statute and has requested an award of costs, including
attorney's fees, pursuant to that statute.
a claim against a defendant, a court must have personal
jurisdiction over that defendant. Under the Due Process
Clause, this means that the defendant must “have
certain minimum contacts with [‘the territory of the
forum, ' which is to say, the geographic area under the
court's authority, ] such that the maintenance of the
suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Depending on the
defendant's forum contacts, a court's personal
jurisdiction over a defendant may be general, allowing the
court to hear any claim against the defendant, or specific,
allowing the court to hear claims against the defendant only
if those claims arise from the defendant's forum
contacts. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v.
Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). A plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing a factual basis for personal
jurisdiction. Crane v. New York Zoological Soc., 894
F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990).
This Court Lacks General Jurisdiction Because the District of
Columbia Is Not the Defendants' Place of Incorporation or
Principal Place of Business
district court may exercise general jurisdiction over all
claims against a corporate defendant if the corporation's
“affiliations with the State are so continuous and
systematic as to render [it] essentially at home” in
the territory subject to the court's authority.
Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 761 (2014).
Although the Supreme Court has not foreclosed the possibility
of an “exceptional case, ” a corporation is
generally considered to be at home only in the place of its
incorporation and in its principal place of business. See
Id. & n.19. Endeavor is incorporated in Delaware,
and Sachem is incorporated in Massachusetts. Endeavor's
Mot. Dismiss, 5; id. Ex. A ¶ 6; Secretary of
the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Business Entity Summary
for Sachem Strategies, LLC, available at
(last accessed April 6, 2018). Robo-Team's own Complaint
alleges that both Endeavor and Sachem have their principal
places of business in Massachusetts. Compl. ¶¶
9-10. And Robo-Team has not argued ...