We previously posted about the Joustin’ Beaver v Justin Bieber case here

As a refresh, app-creator RC3 filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against pint-sized pop star Justin Bieber, claiming the right to operate, maintain and distribute their ‘parody’ video game app ‘Joustin’ Beaver’.  The app is available on iTunes for $0.99, and Joustin’ Beaver gamers help a fringe-haired, sweater-wearing hipster beaver float down a river with a lance, signing Otter-graphs for fans, knocking paparazzi ‘Phot-hogs’ into the river and keeping Joustin’ in control by avoiding the dangerous ‘whirlpool of success’.

Last week, United States District Judge Roy B Dalton Jnr  granted Justin Bieber’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, and dismissed RC3’s complaint without prejudice.  A copy of the order is online here.

In determining whether the Court had personal jurisdiction over Bieber under Florida’s ‘long-arm statute’ (Fla. Stat. § 48.193. Madara, 916 F.2d at 1514), there are two distinct categories of personal jurisdiction:

  • specific jurisdiction (§ 48.193(1)) – which a Court may exercise over a non-resident defendant if the plaintiff’s cause of action “arises from or is directly related to the defendant’s contacts with the forum state”; and
  • general jurisdiction (§ 48.193(2)) – which a Court may exercise over a non-resident defendant if the defendant “engaged in substantial and not isolated activity” within Florida.  This includes “operating, conducting, engaging in, or carrying on a business or business venture” in Florida.

In the Amended Complaint, RC3 alleged that the Court had personal jurisdiction over Bieber, but did not specify under which section that jurisdiction was conferred.  The language appeared to allege the general personal jurisdiction.  However, in Bieber’s motion and RC3’s response, the parties limited their arguments to the application of § 48.193(1)(a), which confers specific personal jurisdiction only.  The Court’s analysis was therefore limited to whether the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Bieber was warranted.

Judge Dalton held that the Court could not exercise specific jurisdiction over the Biebs, because the Complaint didn’t arise from, and wasn’t directly related to, any of Bieber’s business activities in Florida.  This was so, even though Bieber had held intermittent concert performances and recording sessions, and was associated with a record company and a licensee for merchandise in Florida.   

Judge Dalton also held (can we say, sensibly?) that  sending a cease and desist letter and then communicating on the phone with RC3’s lawyers in Florida didn’t constitute carrying on a business in Florida. 

RC3 has until 15 October 2012 to file a Second Amended complaint, although Bieber may decide to commence proceedings in another state.  In a hat tip to @eriqgardner of The Hollywood Reporter: “For now, the whirlpool of success doesn’t include litigation funnels in Florida”.  Stay tuned.