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Pilkin v. Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 16, 2019

VITALY PILKIN, Plaintiff,
v.
SONY INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Vitaly Pilkin is a citizen of the Russian Federation who, appearing pro se, brings this suit seeking $340 million in damages on a theory of unjust enrichment. On November 13, 2017, Pilkin filed a 152-page complaint asserting claims against Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC, Sony Corporation, Hogan Lovells LLP, the United States Department of Justice, and Attorney General Jefferson Sessions. See Dkt. 1 at 1, 3 (Compl.). The Court dismissed the claims against the Department of Justice and Attorney General Sessions, who was sued in his official capacity, on grounds of sovereign immunity. Dkt. 8. The following day, noting that it was “difficult to discern” Pilkin's “theory (or theories) of relief” based on the lengthy complaint, the Court ordered Pilkin to show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 8 or, in the alternative, to file an amended complaint that satisfied the requirements of Rule 8. Dkt. 9. Pilkin filed an amended complaint on May 1, 2018, see Dkt. 12 (Amended Compl.), and Defendants Sony Interactive Entertainment and Hogan Lovells LLP moved to dismiss, see Dkt. 25; Dkt. 26. Shortly thereafter, Pilkin filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. Dkt. 31.

         As with his original complaint, Pilkin's first amended complaint “is not the picture of clarity.” Dkt. 8 at 1. Pilkin alleges that he and Vladimir Vitalievich Miroshnichenko, now deceased, co-owned a Russian patent and that the invention covered by that patent is used in the PlayStation Vita game console manufactured and sold by the Sony Defendants. See Dkt. 12 at 1, 3 (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7-9). Having failed in defending the validity of his patent before the Russian administrative agency responsible for patents, id. at 4-5 (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 14, 18), as well as at least three Russian judicial bodies, id. at 6-7 (Amended Compl. ¶¶ 26-31), Pilkin turned to this Court. Pilkin's principal argument seems to be that Defendants conspired to undermine his patent in a number of administrative and legal proceedings in Russia and were unjustly enriched by the Sony Defendants' infringement of the patent.

         Defendant Sony Interactive Entertainment (“SIE”), headquartered in California, moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under the D.C. long-arm statute and the U.S. Constitution. See Dkt. 25-1 at 14-16. According to Pilkin, SIE is subject to personal jurisdiction in this district because it “does business . . . as well as has agents and other representatives in the District of Columbia.” Dkt. 12 at 2 (Amended Compl. ¶ 2). As explained below, the Court concludes that it lacks personal jurisdiction over SIE and, accordingly, grants SIE's motion to dismiss.[1]

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a basis for exercising personal jurisdiction over each defendant in an action. See Mwani v. bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2005); Case 1:17-cv-02501-RDM Document 45 Filed 01/16/19 Page 3 of 7 Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). “When deciding personal jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing[, ] . . . the ‘court must resolve factual disputes in favor of the plaintiff.'” Livnat v. Palestinian Auth., 851 F.3d 45, 57 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). But, the Court “need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts, ” id. (citation omitted), and a plaintiff's “[m]ere conclusions or ‘bare allegation[s]' do not constitute the prima facie case for jurisdiction that this standard requires, ” Fawzi v. Al Jazeera Media Network, 273 F.Supp.3d 182, 186 (D.D.C. 2017) (alteration in original) (citation omitted).

         II. ANALYSIS

         Courts may exercise either general or specific personal jurisdiction. General jurisdiction “permits a court to assert jurisdiction over a defendant based on a forum connection unrelated to the underlying suit, ” whereas specific jurisdiction requires an “affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy.” Livnat, 851 F.3d at 56 (citation omitted). “To establish personal jurisdiction over a non-resident, a court must engage in a two-part inquiry: A court must first examine whether jurisdiction is applicable under the state's long-arm statute and then determine whether a finding of jurisdiction satisfies the constitutional requirements of due process.” GTE New Media Servs. Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (citing United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995)). Those principles apply to corporate defendants:

A court may assert general jurisdiction over foreign . . . corporations to hear any and all claims against them when their affiliations with the State are so “continuous and systematic” as to render them essentially at home in the forum State. . . . Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, depends on an “affiliatio[n] between the forum and the underlying controversy”. . . . In contrast to general, all-purpose jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction is confined to adjudication of “issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction.”

Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011) (internal citations omitted); see also Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117, 127 (2014). Because Pilkin fails, at the first step, to allege “pertinent jurisdictional facts” sufficient to make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction under the District's long-arm statute, First Chicago Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378 (D.C. Cir. 1988), this Court need not reach the constitutional question. See Arora v. Buckhead Family Dentistry, Inc., 263 F.Supp.3d 121, 126 (D.D.C. 2017).

         Pilkin contends that this Court has personal jurisdiction over SIE for two reasons: First, he alleges that SEI “does business . . . as well as has agents and other representatives in the District of Columbia.” Dkt. 12 at 2 (Amended Compl. ¶ 2). Second, he contends that “Defendants, including SIE LLC, committed federal offenses and concealed them from the Department of Justice, ” and that, as a result, a “substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in the District of Columbia.” Dkt. 33 at 15. These allegations, even if accepted as true, are insufficient to support either general or specific jurisdiction.

         A. General Jurisdiction

         SEI is considered a “foreign” corporation because there is no evidence-and Pilkin does not allege-that it is “domiciled in [or] organized under the laws” of the District of Columbia, nor does SEI maintain “its principal place of business” here. D.C. Code § 13-422. To the contrary, as Plaintiff concedes, SIE is “headquartered” in San Mateo, California. Dkt. 12 at 2 (Amended Compl. ¶ 2); see also Dkt. 33 at 15 (characterizing SIE as an “out-of-state Defendant”). As a result, the Court must look to D.C. Code § 13-334(a), which authorizes general jurisdiction over a foreign corporation only if it is “doing business in the District” and the exercise of general jurisdiction comports with constitutional due process. See FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1092 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Under this demanding standard, the Court may exercise general jurisdiction over SIE only if the company's affiliations with the Case 1:17-cv-02501-RDM Document 45 Filed 01/16/19 Page 5 of 7 District of Columbia are so “‘continuous and systematic' as to render [it] essentially at home” here. Goodyear Dunlop Tires, 564 U.S. at 919. Pilkin's jurisdictional allegations do not come close to satisfying this test. As a result, the Court cannot exercise general jurisdiction over SIE.

         B. ...


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