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Weis v. Kimsaprincess Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 30, 2017



          Robert M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Kirsten Kjaer Weis (“Plaintiff”) brings suit against Defendant Kimsaprincess Inc. (“Defendant”) for trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of the Lanham Act, the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, and Illinois common law. Currently before the Court is Defendant's motion [17] to transfer venue to the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion is granted. The Clerk is directed to transfer the case to the Central District of California for all further proceedings.

         I. Background [1]

         Plaintiff is a Danish makeup artist. [1 ¶ 4.] Since 2010, Plaintiff has developed and sold a line of luxury organic beauty products, including cosmetics, makeup, and skin care products, through her licensee Kjaer Weis, LLC. [Id. ¶¶ 4, 28.] These products have been featured in several national publications and are available for purchase at various retail outlets. [Id. ¶¶ 29- 31.] In connection with this product line, Plaintiff owns several registered trademarks for stylized versions of her initials (“KW”) and her full last name (“Kjaer Weis”). [Id. ¶¶ 7-14.] All of Plaintiff's beauty products are branded with Plaintiff's marks. [Id. ¶ 16.] Plaintiff lives in New York, New York, and her company is also based there. [Id. ¶ 4.]

         Defendant is a California loan-out corporation with a principal place of business in Woodland Hills, California. [1 ¶ 17; 19 at 4.] Defendant has no offices or employees in Illinois. [19 at 4.] Defendant is owned by television personality Kim Kardashian West (“Kardashian”). [Id.] Through Defendant, Kardashian endorses various products and services, including beauty and cosmetics products, which are branded with her name and/or her initials. [Id.; 1 ¶ 37.] Kardashian is a resident of Calabasas, California, and she does not live in or own property in Illinois. [19 at 4; 19-1 ¶ 2.]

         This dispute involves a cosmetics line called “KKW Beauty” that was released publicly in June 2017. [1 ¶ 38; 19 at 4.] Kardashian endorses and sponsors this brand, and the products are branded with Kardashian's initials (“KKW”). [19 at 4.] KKW Beauty products are sold exclusively online and are available to consumers across the United States (including those in Illinois). [1 ¶¶ 22-23; 19-1 ¶ 7.] Seed Beauty (a third party not named as a defendant) designs, manufactures, and distributes the KKW Beauty products. [1 at Ex. J; 32 at 9.] Seed Beauty is based in Oxnard, California. [19 at 5; 32 at 9.] Kardashian's manager Kris Jenner was responsible for negotiating the agreements underlying Kardashian's involvement with KKW Beauty products. [19 at 5; 19-1 ¶ 11.] Ms. Jenner resides in Los Angeles County, California. [19-1 ¶ 11.]

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant is a direct competitor in the beauty product market and that Defendant's “KKW” designations on KKW Beauty products are confusingly similar to Plaintiff's marks. [1 ¶¶ 18-24, 37-43.] Plaintiff further alleges that because of this similarity, consumers will likely be confused and mistakenly believe that her beauty products are affiliated with Kardashian. [Id. ¶¶ 24, 33-36.] Plaintiff filed this action on July 25, 2017, asserting claims for trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, unfair competition under the Lanham Act, violation of the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, common law trademark infringement, and common law unfair competition. [Id. ¶¶ 44-75.] Plaintiff seeks both damages and equitable relief. [Id. at 15-17.]

         Defendant has moved pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer this case to the Central District of California. [See 17.] Defendant argues that the Central District of California is a more appropriate forum because it provides better access to documents and witnesses, it is the situs of the acts of alleged infringement, and California has a stronger interest in adjudicating this dispute than Illinois. Plaintiff counters that venue is proper in Illinois, material events occurred in Illinois, and it would be inconvenient for Plaintiff and Plaintiff's witnesses to travel to California. [See 24.] Alternatively, Plaintiff argues that if transfer is considered appropriate, this action should be transferred to the Southern District of New York instead.

         II. Analysis

         Section 1404(a) provides that, “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all parties have consented.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) authorizes the Court to transfer matters based on an “individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). Therefore, the Seventh Circuit “grant[s] a substantial degree of deference to the district court in deciding whether transfer is appropriate.” Research Automation, Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 977-78 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court may transfer a case under section 1404(a) when: “(1) venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) venue is proper in the transferee district; (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses; and (4) the transfer will serve the interests of justice.” Hanover Ins. Co. v. N. Bldg. Co., 891 F.Supp.2d 1019, 1025 (N.D. Ill. 2012). The Court will consider these factors in turn.

         A. Is venue proper in the transferor and transferee districts?

         The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee district.[2]

         The Court agrees that venue is proper in this District. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), “[a] civil action may be brought in * * * a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.” Plaintiff has established venue in this district “because [she] allege[s] that [she] suffered injury in this District as a result of Defendant['s] alleged trademark infringement [and] unfair competition.” Midas Int'l Corp. v. Chesley, 2012 WL 1357708, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 19, 2012) (citing Clipp Designs, Inc. v. Tag Bags, Inc., 996 F.Supp. 766, 769 (N.D. Ill. 1998)).

         The Court also agrees that venue would be proper in the Central District of California because it is a district “where [the action] might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Defendant resides in the Central District of California, meaning venue is proper in that district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1) (venue is proper in “a judicial district in which any defendant resides”).

         B. Will transfer serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses?

         “In evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses, courts weigh the following factors: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of the material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience to the parties of litigating in the respective forums.” Hanover Ins. Co., 891 F.Supp.2d at 1025 (citing Allied Van Lines, Inc. v. Aaron Transfer & Storage, Inc.,200 F.Supp.2d 941, 946 (N.D. Ill. 2002)). Defendant “has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the transferee forum is clearly more ...

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