Jagex Ltd v Impulse Software, Civil Action No. 10-10216-NMG, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84201 (D. Mass. Aug. 16, 210) (Gorton, D.J.) [Jurisdiction, Venue, Preliminary Injunction].
The District Court (Gorton, D.J.) denied the Defendant’s motion to dismiss and denied the Plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.
Jagex Limited (“Jagex”), an operator of a popular free online role-playing game, filed suit against defendants Eric Snellman and Mark Snellman, d.b.a. Impulse Software (“Impulse”), alleging that Impulse’s game-playing robot software 1) infringed Jagex’s copyrights, 2) violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), 3) infringed Jagex’s trademarks under the Lanham Act, and 4) violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Impulse responded to the complaint and moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, for improper venue, and alternatively, for transfer to the Middle District of Florida. Jagex also moved for preliminary injunction.
The District Court found specific personal jurisdiction over the Snellman brothers. First, the defendant’s contacts properly related to the plaintiff’s claim because Massachusetts was home to more players using the defendant’s robot software than all but three other states. Second, the defendant purposefully availed itself of the “benefits and protections” of Massachusetts because its website permitted sufficient interactivity and commercial exchange when it allowed Massachusetts users to exchange payment information for software codes that enable the defendant’s software to function. Third, most of the Gestalt factors for fairness are neutral because the plaintiff is a U.K. company that has no real connection to Massachusetts.
The District Court found proper venue under the “holistic view” of the “entire sequence of events underlying the claim.” In particular, the defendant’s contacts and contractual relationships with Massachusetts residents are sufficient to give rise to venue. The District Court also denied transfer to the Middle District of Florida because, although it would be convenient for the defendant to litigate in its home state, it would merely shift the inconvenience to the plaintiff. Also, given that most of the relevant documents are electronic, the physical location of such documents is inconsequential.
Jagex moved for preliminary injunction against the defendant’s use of the “Runescape” mark. The District Court first noted that Jagex’s claims for trademark infringement are likely moot, as Impulse removed all references to the trademarked name after the filing of the lawsuit. The Court then analyzed the question of whether the use of the abbreviated mark “RS” could cause consumer confusion. It held that the name of Impulse’s site—“RS Cheating Asylum”—makes clear that it does not promote a version of the plaintiff’s game, but rather a program intended to cheat that game. Because the Court found it “implausible” that the creator of a computer game would promote a website that encourages players to cheat at it, it found the likelihood of consumer confusion to be “slim.” Accordingly, the Court found plaintiff’s Lanham Act claim unlikely to succeed and refused to preliminarily enjoin use of the “RS” mark.