United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division
ADVANTA-STAR AUTOMOTIVE RESEARCH CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
SEMORAN AUTO ACQUISITIONS, INC., WEST COLONIAL AUTO, INC., LONGWOOD AUTO ACQUISITIONS I, INC., GREENWAY AUTOMOTIVE, INC. and CARL ATKINSON, Defendants.
G. BYRON UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause comes before the Court without oral argument on two
motions to dismiss: one filed by Defendants Semoran Auto
Acquisitions, Inc., West Colonial Auto, Inc., Longwood Auto
Acquisitions, Inc., and Greenway Automotive (Doc. 30);
another filed by Defendant Carl Atkinson (Doc. 35).
Plaintiffs filed responses in opposition to both. (Docs. 38,
40). Upon review, both motions are due to be denied.
copyright infringement suit arises out of the
Defendants' alleged co-opting of digital content.
Plaintiff Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of
America (“Advanta-STAR”) generates and sells
reviews and information about cars (the
“Content”) to car dealerships, who pay
subscription fees for rights to use the Content. (Doc. 18,
¶¶ 13, 15). Dealership-subscribers use the Content
to help explain to customers differences between various
cars, and to “enhance Search Engine Optimization . . .
for dealership websites, and increase the ‘time on
site' for website visitors.” (Id. ¶
14). Plaintiff owns copyrights for the Content, and notices
of copyright prominent appear throughout the Content's
text. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17).
2015, Paul French-who Plaintiff believes was IT Manager for
the Business Defendants-requested information about
Plaintiff's product offerings through the Advanta-STAR
website. (Id. ¶ 18). Mr. French requested a
price quote, and Plaintiff responded by sending him a
subscription proposal. (Id. ¶ 19). That was the
last communication between Mr. French and Plaintiff.
Plaintiff learned that several websites owned by the Business
Defendants (“Infringing Websites”) included unique
text identical to the Content. (Id. ¶ 21).
Searches revealed that the Infringing Websites included
Plaintiff's vehicle comparisons, as well as text and
information identical to Plaintiff's copyrighted Content,
except the copyright notices and author-identifying
information was removed. (Id. ¶ 22). Defendants
did not purchase, and were never authorized to use,
Plaintiff's Content. (Id. ¶ 25). As a
result of Defendants' infringement, Plaintiff suffered
lost sales. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 27).
initiated this suit on September 22, 2017, and filed an
Amended Complaint on October 24, 2017. (Docs. 1, 18).
Plaintiff brings three counts against all Defendants: (I)
copyright infringement, (II) violation of 17 U.S.C. §
1202, and (III) civil conspiracy. (Doc. 18, ¶¶
29-46). The Dealership Defendants and Carl Atkinson
separately moved to dismiss and alternatively for more
definite statements. (Docs. 30, 35).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(1). Thus, in order to
survive a motion to dismiss made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6),
the complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is
plausible on its face when the plaintiff “pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations,
mere legal conclusions or recitation of the elements of a
claim are not enough. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
“While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual
allegations.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Courts
must also view the complaint in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff and must resolve any doubts as to the
sufficiency of the complaint in the plaintiff's favor.
Hunnings v. Texaco, Inc., 29 F.3d 1480, 1483 (11th
Cir. 1994) (per curiam).
Business Defendants' Motion
Business Defendants' motion asserts that claims for civil
conspiracy must be pleaded with particularity as to each
defendant under Florida law, and that Count III fails to do
so. (Doc. 30, pp. 3-4). Alternatively, the motion requests a
more definite statement on the grounds that Count III, as
currently formulated, is impermissibly vague. (Id.
at p. 5).
preliminary matter, the Court rejects the Business
Defendants' contention that “conspiracy claims must
be plead [sic] with particularity.” (Doc. 30, p. 4) The
cases offered in support of this proposition involved
conspiracy claims with fraud predicates, while the conspiracy
claims at issue are predicated by copyright infringement.
See Haskin v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, 995 F.Supp.
1437, 1439-40 (M.D. Fla. 1998) (applying Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 9(b)'s heightened pleading requirement to
“averments of fraud or mistake”); Truesdell