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Inselberg v. New York Football Giants, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

November 10, 2014

ERIC INSELBERG, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS, INC., et al., Defendants.

OPINION

WILLIAM J. MARTINI, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Eric Inselberg's motion to remand, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). Magistrate Judge Mark Falk entered a Report and Recommendation on June 18, 2014 ("the R&R") in favor of denying Plaintiff's motion. The R&R concluded that removal was proper because Counts 8 and 10 of Plaintiff's Complaint are claims under the Patent Act, thereby creating federal-question jurisdiction. After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and a de novo review of the R&R, the Court does not adopt the R&R's conclusion that Counts 8 and 10 are Patent Act claims. Additionally, the Court rejects Defendants' other arguments for why removal is proper. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to remand is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

As the R & R accurately lays forth the full background and procedural history of this case, the Court recites only the following relevant facts pertaining to its de novo review. On January 29, 2014, Plaintiff Eric Inselberg - a self-described inventor, entrepreneur, and collector of sports memorabilia - filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of New Jersey against the New York Football Giants, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Giants owner John K. Mara, and other related Defendants. The sixteen-count Complaint asserts the following causes of action, all under state law: (1) New Jersey Civil RICO, N.J.S.A. 2C:41-1, et seq.; (2) Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage; (3) Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations; (4) Malicious Prosecution; (5) Abuse of Process; (6) Trade Libel; (7) Intentional Inflection of Emotional Distress; (8) Unjust Enrichment; (9) Quantum Meruit; (10) Unfair Competition - Idea Misappropriation; (11) Breach of Contract; (12) Civil Conspiracy; (13) Aiding & Abetting; (14) Negligent Supervision; (15) Negligent Retention; and (16) Respondeat Superior.

As the R&R points out, the Complaint can be distilled into two conceptual parts. The first part relates to a federal investigation concerning fraud in the sports memorabilia business. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants falsely implicated him in a fraudulent memorabilia scheme in order to protect their own interests. These actions allegedly left his business and personal life in ruin, causing him severe financial and psychological harm. ( See Compl. at ¶¶148-63).

The second part - which is the focus of this Opinion - is unrelated to the sports memorabilia investigation. It instead concerns the use of "wireless audience participation" technology that Plaintiff invented and subsequently had patented. (Compl. at ¶¶ 50-52). Plaintiff alleges that after obtaining the patents, he shared this technology and other marketing concepts with the New York Giants and other related individuals (named in the Complaint as John Does A-Z) in the fall of 2010. Counts 8 and 10 of the Complaint ("Unjust Enrichment" and "Unfair Competition - Idea Misappropriation, " respectively), allege that the Giants misappropriated the wireless audience participation technology without compensating Plaintiff or appropriately crediting him as the inventor. (Compl. at ¶¶ 221-25, 231-36).

On February 27, 2014, certain Defendants filed a Notice of Removal to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446, and 1454. ECF No. 1. In their Notice of Removal, Defendants submit that removal is proper because Counts 8 and 10 are "[c]laims [u]nder the Patent Act, " which are not only removable to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1454(a) and 1441(a), but must exclusively be heard in federal court under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a). (Notice of Removal at ¶ 4, ECF No. 1). The Notice of Removal argues that (1) Plaintiff has asserted claims of patent infringement, which must be heard in federal court; or (2) Plaintiff has, at the very least, asserted claims that require resolution of a substantial and actually disputed question of patent law, which make them removable under Grable & Sons Metal Products, Inc. v. Darue Engineering & Manufacturing, 545 U.S. 308 (2005). ( Id. at ¶ 8). Additionally, Defendants submit that under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, this Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the other fourteen state law claims, which are therefore also removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c). ( Id. at ¶ 14).

On March 18, 2014, Plaintiff moved to remand to state court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). ECF No. 25. In his motion to remand, Plaintiff argues that his claims could not be for patent infringement because he no longer holds the patents[1] at issue and thus lacks standing to sue under the Patent Act. He further argues that Counts 8 and 10 are not claims for patent infringement and that there is no basis for removal under Grable. (Mt. to Remand at 8-13). Plaintiff also argues that he should be awarded fees and costs because Defendants did not have an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal. ( Id. at 13-16).

After holding oral argument, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk issued the R&R on June 18, 2014 recommending that this Court deny Plaintiff's motion to remand. ECF No. 57. Resting on the doctrine of complete preemption, the R&R concluded that Counts 8 and 10 were patent infringement claims, and that Plaintiff could not avoid removal by "artfully pleading" those claims as causes of action under state law. (R&R at 13).

Plaintiff filed his Objections to the R&R, requesting that this Court disregard the R&R and remand the case to state court, or in the alternative, decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the 14 remaining state law claims that do not allege misappropriation of patented concepts. ( See Plf's Obj. at 5-6, 22-23, ECF No. 59). Shortly thereafter, Defendants filed their Response, requesting that this Court adopt the R&R, deny the motion to remand, and exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. (Defs' Resp. at 5, ECF No. 60). Before this Court is a consideration of the parties' full submissions and a de novo review of the disputed findings and conclusions in the R & R.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A United States Magistrate Judge is vested with the authority to hear a pretrial matter dispositive of a claim and to enter a recommendation for its disposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). A party may object to the recommended disposition of the matter by filing a written objection within ten days of being served with a Magistrate Judge's report and recommendation. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2). Thereafter, the district court "shall make a de novo determination of those positions to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge." L. Civ. R. 72.1(c)(2).

III. MOTION TO REMAND

In their Notice of Removal, Defendants assert that this Court has subject-matter jurisdiction because (1) Plaintiff has asserted claims of patent infringement, which must be heard in federal court; or (2) Plaintiff has, at the very least, asserted claims that require resolution of a substantial and actually ...


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