WWE and Take-Two Interactive Move to Dismiss Tattoo Artist Copyright Infringement

On July 9, 2018, World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (Take-Two) moved to dismiss the suit brought by Catherine Alexander, a tattoo artist for professional WWE wrestler Randy Orton. As we have previously reported, Alexander, sued WWE and Take-Two claiming that several video games in the WWE 2K series illegally copied Alexander’s copyrighted tattoos in the Randy Orton game avatar. Between 2003 and 2008, Alexander created several tattoos for Orton, including tattoos on his upper back, forearms, upper arms, and sleeve tattoos. In March 2018, Alexander submitted applications to register copyrights on each of the tattoos. Also, back in 2009, WWE allegedly offered Alexander $450,000 for the rights to use and reproduce Orton’s tattoos; however, Alexander declined.

Now the WWE and Take-Two filed a motion to dismiss claiming that Alexander’s “claim is that she effectively [owns] a monopoly over the depiction of Randy Orton as he appears in real life,” which is “legally and practically implausible.” Specifically, WWE and Take-Two claim that the Illinois federal court does not have personal jurisdiction over WWE and the WWE is not subject to the general or specific jurisdiction in Illinois federal court. According to WWE, even though Alexander resides in Illinois and was injured in Illinois as a result of the alleged copyright infringement, the Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit have consistently ruled that “the plaintiff cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum . . . it is the defendant’s conduct that must form the necessary connection with the forum State that is the basis for its jurisdiction over him.”

Further, WWE argued that the court did not have general jurisdiction as WWE is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Connecticut and “is not ‘at home’ in Illinois so as to be subject to general jurisdiction.” Lastly, WWE argued that the court did not have specific jurisdiction, because Alexander’s complaint “fails to allege any litigation-specific conduct of WWE in, or purposefully directed towards, Illinois — much less that WWE’s ‘suit-related conduct . . . create[s] a substantial connection with the forum State.’”

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