MIAMI – A trademark-infringement lawsuit filed by a company bearing the name of early 20th century Pittsburgh Pirates baseball player Honus Wagner was dismissed because the court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendants, according to a Dec. 21 opinion.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida said in its ruling that plaintiff the Honus Wagner Co. filed its amended complaint on Sept. 17. Defendants Luminary Group LLC and Leslie Blair Roberts asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit on Oct. 4 and Oct. 18, respectively.
Honus Wagner started a sporting goods store, the Honus Wagner Co., after he retired from baseball in 1922, according to the opinion. The company originally operated a store in Pittsburgh, and the company said in the complaint that Wagner sold it “along with the rights to the Honus Wagner name” and related trademarks and rights to E.L. Braunstein in 1929.
Although Braunstein’s son-in-law, Murray Shapiro, ran the Pittsburgh store until March 21, 2011, the opinion said son Allen Shapiro moved the company to Florida in 2014 and now primarily sells Honus Wagner items through a company website.
According to the opinion, Luminary serves as “business representative for the estate of Honus Wagner, with its principal place of business in Indiana.”
On its website, www.honuswagner.com, Luminary claims that “(Honus Wagner’s) name, image, words, signature and voice are the protectable property rights owned by the estate,” the opinion said, and “any use of the above, without express written consent of the estate is strictly prohibited.”
Leslie Blair Roberts is listed in the complaint and district court ruling as the sole heir of the Honus Wagner estate.
“Plaintiff alleges that the defendants have infringed on its intellectual property rights,” the opinion said.
In their motions to dismiss, Luminary and Roberts argued that since Luminary is based in Indiana and has no business dealings in Florida and since Roberts lives in South Carolina and has never lived in Florida, the court lacks personal jurisdiction over them, the district court said.
Despite the plaintiff’s claim that the estate’s website allows residents of Florida to purchase infringing products, the district court agreed with the defendants.
“The court finds defendants have not purposefully availed themselves to Florida and, thus, there exists no personal jurisdiction over the defendants,” the district court wrote in its opinion.