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Chawla v. Swathi Subramanian, and Swaraag, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 11, 2016

ANIL CHAWLA, Plaintiff,
v.
SWATHI SUBRAMANIAN, and SWARAAG, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER OF DECISION

TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN, District Judge.

Background

Plaintiff, Anil Chawla ("Chawla") has filed suit against Swathi Subramanian ("Subramanian") and Swaraag, Inc. alleging claims for infringement of intellectual property rights (trademarks), harassment, fraud and defamation. Chawla's claims relate to Defendants' alleged interference with his operation of Boston Sargam ("Sargam")[1], an organization formed for the purpose of organizing cultural events showcasing the talents of the South Asian Community. More specifically, Chawla alleges that Subramanian, who was a board member of Sargam along with himself and Tej Singh ("Singh"): (1) unilaterally and without proper appointed herself as president of Sargam and filed false documents with the Secretary of State reflecting this change; (2) changed Sargam's designated address with the Internal Revenue Service, the Secretary of State and PayPal from Chawla's address to a P.O. Box address to which she had greater access; (3) kept information important to the organization from Chawla and other core members; (4) took responsibility away from core members and assigned them to people who answered only to her; (5) refused to share financial information with Chawla and kept he and other core members in the dark regarding profits and expenses relating to events and unilaterally having his name stricken as an authorized signer on the Sargam's bank account; (6) unilaterally changed the password permitting access to the website, www.bostonsargam.org.; (7) reserved domain names similar to "bostonsargam.org" in an attempt to dilute and sabotage Sargam's activities by holding similar events and activities to those of Sargam; (8) representing to facility owners that she was acting on behalf of Sargam, while in reality, she was blocking Chawla from acting on Sargam's behalf; and (9) violating Sargam's/Chawla's copyrights by copying style and contents from bostonsargam.org and using it on other websites controlled by her.

This Memorandum of Decision and Order addresses, Defendant Swathi Subramanian's and Swaraag Inc.'s Motion For Summary Judgment (Docket No. 70), which is denied for the reasons set forth below. Also addressed are Plaintiff's motions to compel answers to interrogatories and production of documents (Docket Nos. 75 and 79), which are denied, except to the limited extent provided below.

Discussion

This Court's jurisdiction is based on Plaintiff's assertion that Defendants have violated the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. ยง1051, et seq. and infringed his copyright. If prior to trial I determine that Plaintiff's federal claims fail, then I do not intend to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. For that reason, I will focus on whether Plaintiff's federal claims survive. Additionally, I generally make findings of fact based on the assertions made by parties in their submissions, i.e., the moving parties statement of material facts and opponent's statements of facts in dispute in accordance with LR, D.Mass. 56. In this case, however, I will not make any separate findings of fact, but instead, will during the course of my discussion, refer briefly to those disputed facts which, based on the parties' submissions, compel denial of Defendants' summary judgment motion.

Plaintiff's Cyberpiracy Prevention Act Claim

Section 1125(d) (the Cyberpiracy Prevention Act or "CPA") provides in relevant part as follows:

(1)(A) A person shall be liable in a civil action by the owner of a mark, including a personal name which is protected as a mark under this section, if, without regard to the goods or services of the parties, that person-
(i) has a bad faith intent to profit from that mark, including a personal name which is protected as a mark under this section; and
(ii) registers, traffics in, or uses a domain name that-
(I) in the case of a mark that is distinctive at the time of registration of the domain name, is identical or confusingly similar to that mark;
(II) in the case of a famous mark that is famous at the time of registration of the domain name, is identical or confusingly ...

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