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WORLD SKATING FEDERATION v. INTERNATIONAL SKATING UNION

February 7, 2005.

WORLD SKATING FEDERATION, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL SKATING UNION and OTTAVIO CINQUANTA, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN SPRIZZO, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, World Skating Federation ("WSF" or "plaintiff"), brings this antitrust action to recover for the allegedly monopolistic behavior of defendants, International Skating Union ("ISU"), and its president, Ottavio Cinquanta, (collectively "defendants"), in the field of international figure skating. Defendants bring this motion to dismiss plaintiff's Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b) (2), 12 (b) (3), and 12 (b) (6), respectively, as well as on forum non conveniens grounds. Because this Court finds that it does not have personal jurisdiction over the defendants and because it is not satisfied that such jurisdiction exists in the alternative fora suggested by plaintiff, the Court grants defendants' motion and dismisses plaintiff's Complaint.*fn1

BACKGROUND

  In the wake of the judging scandal that marred the figure skating competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, a number of participants in the sport, including athletes, Page 2 coaches, and judges, decided to form the WSF, a "not-for-profit international sports federation incorporated in the state of Nevada."*fn2 See Compl. ¶¶ 2, 14, 27, 33. Announcing its existence on March 25, 2003 at a Washington, D.C. press conference, the WSF promulgated as its goal the restoration of "merits-based competition to figure skating events," id. ¶ 2, which it sought to achieve by persuading the International Olympic Committee ("IOC") "to recognize the WSF as the international federation for the sport of figure skating," id. ¶ 33. That distinction currently belongs to the ISU, "an association formed under the laws of Switzerland." Id. ¶¶ 15, 26.

  Recognition by the IOC brings with it a number of benefits. IOC-recognized governing bodies "oversee and administer" their specific sports, id. ¶ 15, "provide judges and officials for the Olympic Games," id. ¶ 26, and establish eligibility requirements for athletes wishing to compete in "World and Olympic competitions," id.

  Plaintiff contends that ISU has exploited this last perquisite in order to maintain its stranglehold over the sport of figure skating. Id. ¶¶ 40-45.

  According to plaintiff, following the creation of the WSF defendants engaged in behavior designed to "virtually eliminate? the ability of potential competing organizations to sponsor skating competitions." Id. ¶ 41. Defendants issued letters and press releases which indicated that any ISU member "who would join the WSF, or support or endorse its activities" would be acting "against the integrity, the exclusive role and interests of the ISU" in "breach of the ISU Constitution and Regulations." Id. ¶ 35.a. Such Page 3 a breach constituted a "breach of eligibility rules," id. ¶ 35.c., which the ISU warned members could result in punitive actions, id. ¶ 35.e., loss of eligibility, id. ¶ 35.f., and withdrawal of honorary lifetime awards, id. ¶ 35.g. Since the ISU determines the eligibility of athletes and judges to compete in Olympic events, plaintiff contends that ISU's actions have meant that "individuals who hope to participate in events on [the Olympic] level cannot participate" in WSF-sanctioned competitions, thus relegating the WSF to the use of ineligible skaters and judges. Id. ¶¶ 41, 43.

  Along with this power to coerce skaters and judges into not participating in WSF events, WSF contends that defendants use their control over international figure skating to maintain a monopoly over the marketing and television rights in the sport. Id. ¶¶ 42-44. ISU sponsors a number of skating events in the United States, including competitions held in Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. Id. ¶ 24. Defendants benefit from ticket sales, merchandising, and television coverage of these events. Id. ¶¶ 38-39. Plaintiff contends that despite the exorbitant fees charged by ISU for the television rights, allegedly in order to provide for "kickbacks" for defendant Cinquanta, television networks will not do business with WSF or other entities for fear of being blacklisted by ISU. Id. ¶¶ 29-31, 42, 44.

  Plaintiff commenced this action by Complaint dated December 9, 2003. Seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages, plaintiff alleges that defendants were unjustly enriched, engaged in, attempted to engage in, or conspired to engage in monopolization in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 2, and engaged in restraint of trade in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1.

  Defendants moved to dismiss this action, arguing, among other things, that this Court does not have personal jurisdiction over Page 4 them. After Oral Argument on defendants' Motion, which was held on August 9, 2004, the Court requested that the parties submit letter briefs on the issue of long-arm jurisdiction in the District of Columbia. See Order, dated Aug. 9, 2004. Plaintiff submitted a letter dated August 30, 2004, Letter of Michael M. Buchman ("Buchman Letter"), and defendants submitted a response, Letter of Alan R. Glickman, dated Sept. 20, 2004.

  DISCUSSION

  On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (2), in which no discovery on the issue has been taken, "plaintiff bears the burden of making a prima facie case that jurisdiction exists." Fort Knox Music, Inc. v. Baptiste, 139 F. Supp. 2d 505, 508 (S.D.N.Y. 2001); see also Ball v. Metallurgie Hoboken-Overpelt, S.A., 902 F. 2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990). Plaintiff need only make "legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction," and the court must "assume? the truth of the plaintiff's factual allegations," Ball, 902 F.2d at 197, and view its affidavits "in the light most favorable to [it]," Fort Knox Music, Inc., 139 F. Supp. 2d at 508; see also Marine Midland Bank, N.A. v. Miller, 664 F.2d 899, 904 (2d Cir. 1981).

  Here, plaintiff points to two separate bases for personal jurisdiction over defendants — section 12 of the Clayton Act, which governs service and confers jurisdiction over corporate antitrust defendants, and the New York long-arm statute, N.Y.C.P.L.R. 302. Aware that neither of these bases may be found to be sufficient to sustain personal jurisdiction, plaintiff alternatively requests transfer, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406, to the federal district court ...


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