Brilliant Colors Digital, Pte. Ltd. v. Centurion Art Development, LLC et al

Filing 40

Order by Hon. Samuel Conti denying 25 Motion to Dismiss.(sclc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 12/5/2012)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 BRILLIANT COLORS DIGITAL, PTE. LTD., ) ) ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) CENTURION ART DEVELOPMENT, LLC, ) RUSSELL DWAYNE MASON, and LEON ) GUOLIANG WANG, ) ) Defendants. ) ) 17 Case No. 12-00594 SC ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION Plaintiff Brilliant Colors Digital, Pte. Ltd. ("Plaintiff") 18 brings this action in its own right and as assignee of the rights 19 and claims of Massive Black, Inc. ("MB"). 20 4. 21 and animation for the entertainment industry, and has a production 22 studio in Shanghai, China ("MB Shanghai"). 23 Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Leon Goliang Wang ("Wang") was MB 24 Shanghai's director and manager. 25 alleges that, in 2011, Wang and Defendant Russell Mason secretly 26 27 28 ECF No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ MB produces concept art, 2- and 3-dimensional illustrations, Id. ¶ 18. Id. ¶¶ 10, 11. Plaintiff further formed a new business, Defendant Centurion Art Development, LLC, to seize MB's assets and opportunities. Id. ¶ 28. 1 Wang now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, 2 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). 3 ("MTD"). 4 ("Reply"), and appropriate for resolution without oral argument. 5 For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Wang's motion. 6 ECF No. 25 The motion is fully briefed, ECF Nos. 33 ("Opp'n), 37 On a Rule 12(b)(2) motion such as this, "plaintiffs bear the 7 burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate." Dole 8 Food Co., Inc. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002). 9 Where, as here, the motion is based on written materials rather United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 than an evidentiary hearing, the Court must determine whether the 11 plaintiff's pleadings and affidavits make a prima facie showing of 12 personal jurisdiction. 13 complaint must be taken as true," and "conflicts between parties 14 over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the 15 plaintiff's favor." 16 Id. "[U]ncontroverted allegations in the Id. The Court finds that Plaintiff has satisfied its prima facie 17 burden here. 18 he resides exclusively in the People's Republic of China, does not 19 conduct business in California, does not own property in 20 California, does not pay taxes in California, and has never owned 21 an office in California. 22 dispositive since (1) Wang was personally served with process in 23 California; and (2) Wang contractually agreed to be subject to 24 jurisdiction in this forum. 25 Wang argues that the Court lacks jurisdiction because MTD at 7. However, these facts are not With respect to the first point, Wang was personally served in 26 San Francisco, California on March 8, 2012. ECF No. 8 ("Proof of 27 Service"). 28 personal service is sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction. Under prevailing Supreme Court precedent, in-state 2 1 Burnham v. Super. Ct., 495 U.S. 604, 619 (1990); see also Water 2 Wheel Camp Recreational Area, Inc. v. LaRance, 642 F.3d 802, 819 3 (9th Cir. 2011). 4 while attending a multi-day conference, but he argues that his 5 "presence in California is limited and attenuated such that the 6 exercise of jurisdiction would be unreasonable." 7 Supreme Court considered and rejected a similar argument in 8 Burnham: Wang concedes that he was served in San Francisco Reply at 4. The 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 13 The short of the matter is that jurisdiction based on physical presence alone constitutes due process because it is one of the continuing traditions of our legal system that define the due process standard of "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." That standard was developed by analogy to "physical presence," and it would be perverse to say it could now be turned against that touchstone of jurisdiction. 14 15 495 U.S. at 619. 16 personal jurisdiction is proper because Wang was served in the 17 forum. 18 Accordingly, the Court finds that the exercise of The exercise of personal jurisdiction is also appropriate 19 because Wang entered into a "Confidentiality and Invention 20 Assignment Agreement" (the "Confidentiality Agreement") with MB 21 which provides for exclusive jurisdiction in California: 22 23 24 25 Any dispute that arises under or relates to this Agreement (whether contract, tort, or both) shall be resolved in Federal or State court with jurisdiction for the County of San Francisco, State of California, and the parties expressly waive any right they may otherwise have to cause any such action or proceeding to be brought or tried elsewhere. 26 ECF No. 34 Ex. B. ¶ 14. 27 in the Confidentiality Agreement, are presumptively valid and 28 evidence consent to personal jurisdiction in the forum selected. Forum selection clauses, such as the one 3 1 Craigslist, Inc. v. Naturemarket, Inc., 694 F. Supp. 2d 1039, 1052 2 (N.D. Cal. 2010). 3 selection clause bears the burden of proving the clause is 4 unenforceable." 5 "The party disputing the validity of a forum Id. Wang argues that his contract for services with MB was illegal 6 under Chinese law and, therefore void. 7 Wang contends that, as a foreign business holding a resident 8 representative office in China, MB could not legally employ Chinese 9 citizens, such as Wang, to perform any profitable development work United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 12 in China. Id. Reply at 2. Specifically, However, Wang has failed to point to any Chinese authority which would support this contention. cites to his own declaration. Instead, he merely Wang is not a lawyer and, in any 13 event, his legal opinions are not binding on this Court. Further, 14 even if MB and Wang's employment relationship were illegal, it is 15 unclear why that would affect the enforceability of the 16 Confidentiality Agreement. Accordingly, the Court finds that Wang 17 has failed to meet his burden of proving that the forum selection 18 19 20 21 clause in the Confidentiality Agreement is unenforceable. For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Defendant Leon Goliang Wang's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. 22 23 IT IS SO ORDERED. 24 25 26 Dated: December 5, 2012 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 27 28 4

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