The District Court for the Northern District of California granted motion to dismiss without leave to amend in Williams v. Life’s Rad and Cafepress.com, 2010 U.S.Dist. LEXIS 46763 (N.D. Cal. 2010) after finding that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The court ultimately concluded that the Plaintiff failed to state a claim and that the complaint could not be cured by amendment. Read the court's reasoning below:
1. Plaintiff alleges that CafePress violated the DMCA by failing to comply with its takedown and reinstatement proceduresBy its express terms, the DMCA and its takedown and restore provisions apply only to situations where the material is removed from a website based on notification to the service provider that the material infringes upon a “copyrighted work.” 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(3). In this case, Life’s Rad did not notify CafePress that Plaintiff infringed its copyrighted work. Rather, its notice alleged that Plaintiff’s material infringed the LIFE’S RAD trademark.2. Plaintiff vaguely alleges that CafePress violated the Lanham Act by removing his products from its website after receiving notification from Life’s Rad that Plaintiff’s designs infringed its trademark rights.
CafePress received notification that Plaintiff’s use of “Life is Rad” may infringe a third party’s trademark, and consequently exercised its discretion to remove offending merchandise from its site. Such action was expressly authorized by the Shopkeeper’s Agreement and the TOS, which are binding on Plaintiff. As such, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the DMCA.
Plaintiff lacks standing. In his opposition, Plaintiff admits that he has no trademark rights in “Life is Rad.” Absent such rights, Plaintiff has no standing to assert any claims under the Lanham Act3. Due Process Violation
…the rights that Plaintiff seeks to assert under the Lanham Act do not exist. Plaintiff has not identified (nor has the Court been able to identify) any provision of the Lanham Act that restricts an internet service provider’s discretion to remove items from its website as a result of any third party claim of trademark infringement. While the DMCA imposes obligations upon service providers with respect to copyrights, there is no companion provision under the Lanham Act for trademarks.
Finally, as discussed above, CafePress had the contractual authority to remove Plaintiff’s merchandise from its site, irrespective of any trademark or copyright concerns expressed by a third party. For all these reasons, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Lanham Act
The United States Constitution protects individual rights only from government action, not from private action. Only when the government is responsible for a plaintiff’s complaints are individual constitutional rights implicated. Thus, where the defendant is a private actor, no constitutional claim is cognizable. Here, Plaintiff does not dispute that CafePress is alleged to be a private corporation, not a federal entity. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for denial of his constitutional right to due process.4. Unfair Competition Law
The UCL makes actionable any “unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice.” Plaintiff appears to rely on the “unfair” prong of the UCL. An unfair business practice under the UCL is “one that either offends an established public policy or is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious to consumers.” Alternatively, an act is “unfair” under the UCL “if the consumer injury is substantial, is not outweighed by any countervailing benefits to consumers or to competition, and is not an injury the consumers themselves could have reasonably avoided.”B. INTERFERENCE WITH PROSPECTIVE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE
Plaintiff avers that CafePress acted unfairly by singling out and removing his designs, while allowing other designs to remain on the site. However, Plaintiff fails to present any facts establishing that CafePress’s decision to remove his designs from its site is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious or that it violates public policy. To the contrary, the facts alleged demonstrate that CafePress properly exercised its authority under the Shopkeeper’s Agreement and TOS to remove his merchandise upon notification from another shopkeeper that his designs infringed its copyright. Plaintiff concedes that CafePress has a legitimate business interest in controlling the merchandise available through its site to prevent content that potentially infringes the legal rights of others. Not only is such control essential to CafePress’s ability right to protect itself against liability for inappropriate content, it also serves to protect the rights and interests of CafePress’s users and consumers in general. Moreover, Plaintiff cannot seriously claim that he suffered any substantial harm as a result of CafePress’s decision to remove his Life is Rad designs from products offered for sale through the CafePress site.5 It is undisputed by the parties that Plaintiff remains free to market his other (non-“Life is Rad”) designs through CafePress service, and that CafePress’s removal of his “Life is Rad” apparel does not impair Plaintiff’s ability to market his wares through other channels, such as his own websites, www.xraygifts.com and www.lifeisrad.com...Thus, it is plain from the facts alleged that Plaintiff has not and cannot establish that he suffered a substantial injury. For all of the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff’s claim for unfair competition under the UCL fails as a matter of law.
Plaintiff’s third claim for relief alleges that CafePress interfered with his business when it removed his merchandise from its site. Because of Plaintiff’s pro se status, the Court liberally construes this claim as a state law cause of action for interference with prospective economic advantage. The elements of this tort are:(1) an economic relationship exists between the plaintiff and some third party, with the probability of future economic benefit to the plaintiff;
(2) the defendant’s knowledge of the relationship;
(3) intentional acts on the part of the defendant designed to disrupt the relationship;
(4) actual disruption of the relationship; and
(5) economic harm to the plaintiff proximately caused by the acts of the defendant.To satisfy this test, “a plaintiff must plead ... that the defendant’s acts are wrongful apart from the interference itself.” In addition, the complaint must plead facts demonstrating the existence of a business relationship in which the probability of future economic benefit is more than speculative.
The Complaint fails to allege any facts necessary to state a claim for intentional interference with prospective economic damage. Rather, Plaintiff merely repeats the theory underlying his other claims; namely, that CafePress had no right to remove his Life is Rad apparel from its site. As discussed above, Plaintiff’s claims are frivolous. Moreover, based on the allegations presented and argument presented in Plaintiff’s opposition, it is clear that CafePress’s allegedly wrongful acts and interference are the same. The Court therefore finds that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for unlawful interference with his business.