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Laspata DeCaro Studio Corporation v. Rimowa GmbH

United States District Court, S.D. New York

May 8, 2017

LASPATA DECARO STUDIO CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
RIMOWA GMBH, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:

         Rimowa GmbH (“Rimowa”), a luggage manufacturer, retained Meiré GmbH & Co. KG (“Meiré”) to design an advertising campaign to promote its products. After the campaign's launch, Plaintiff Laspata DeCaro Studio Corporation (“Laspata”) filed the instant suit against Rimowa, its subsidiaries Rimowa Inc. and Rimowa Distribution, Inc. (collectively, the “Rimowa Entities”) and Meiré, alleging the images used in the campaign infringed Laspata's copyrights. The Rimowa Entities assert four crossclaims against Meiré based on its alleged misrepresentation that it owned the copyrights to the images at issue. Meiré moves to dismiss the crossclaims for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, on forum non conveniens grounds based on a forum selection clause. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The following is taken from the parties' pleadings and affidavits and is undisputed. See Martinez v. Bloomberg LP, 740 F.3d 211, 216 (2d Cir. 2014) (“[I]n evaluating a motion to dismiss based on a forum selection clause, a district court typically relies on pleadings and affidavits . . . .”).

         Rimowa is a German luggage manufacturer with its principal place of business in Cologne, Germany. Its subsidiaries include Rimowa Inc. and Rimowa Distribution, Inc. Meiré is a German advertising agency. Like Rimowa, its principal place of business is in Cologne.

         Beginning in 2008, Rimowa hired Meiré to direct advertising campaigns on an as-needed basis. The parties have entered into agreements for roughly 480 separate projects.

         In May 2011, a Meiré employee sent an email to Birgit Wenners, the head of the public relations and communications department at Rimowa, stating, “Please find attached the cover letter of the notification factoring as well as our current T&Cs for your perusal and for signature.”[1] Attached to the email were (1) the letter, which addressed Meiré's new financing and invoice payment procedures, and (2) a document, dated April 2011, entitled “General Terms and Conditions of Trade of Meiré GmbH & Co KG” (the “GTCs”).[2] Wenners replied that she had received the “new” GTCs and, in another email, sent an executed version of the factoring letter, which references the GTCs. In the Fall of 2011, Marc Meiré, the founder and Managing Partner of Meiré, also provided the GTCs to Rimowa's CFO.[3]

         The GTCs' opening paragraph provides in part:

All contracts shall be executed under the following General Terms and Conditions of Trade. [Meiré's] General Terms shall apply exclusively. The General Terms shall also apply for future business relationships, even if they are not explicitly agreed upon again.

         The last section contains forum selection and choice of law provisions, which state:

Cologne is agreed upon as the place of jurisdiction and the place of performance, if [Meiré's] contractual partner is a merchant within the meaning of the provisions of commercial law.
. . .
The legal relationship between the contractual parties shall be governed exclusively by the law of the Federal Republic of Germany . . . .

         At the beginning of their relationship in 2008, Meiré provided Rimowa with its GTCs, and each Meiré invoice Rimowa paid referred to that document. The version of the GTCs in effect when Meiré began its dealings with Rimowa contain the same forum selection clause and choice of law clause as the April 2011 version. No Rimowa employee has ever objected to the GTCs or questioned their applicability to the dealings between Rimowa and Meiré.

         In March 2014, Rimowa contacted Meiré about providing services for Rimowa's 2015/2016 “Lookbook” and related advertising campaign. A Lookbook is a catalog that promotes Rimowa's products using a “story” concept. Meiré accepted Rimowa's retention offer and began work on the project. In April 2014, Meiré confirmed by ...


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