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Gravelle v. Kaba Ilco Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 16, 2014

GORDON GRAVELLE o/a CodePro Manufacturing, Plaintiff,
v.
KABA ILCO CORP., KABA AG, and KABA HOLDING AG, Defendants.

ORDER

LOUISE W. FLANAGAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and motion to strike pursuant to Rule 12(f)(2) (DE 16). In their motion, defendants also request entry of a prefiling injunction against plaintiff. Plaintiff has responded and defendants have replied. Issues raised are ripe for ruling. For the following reasons the court will grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initiated this matter by filing a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis on September 6, 2013. Pursuant to the court's order, plaintiff filed a particularized motion on September 23, 2013. This motion was denied by order entered September 26, 2013. Plaintiff then paid the requisite filing fee, and filed a complaint against defendant Kaba Ilco Corp. ("Kaba Ilco") on October 29, 2013 (DE 9).

That same day, plaintiff filed an amended complaint against defendants Kaba Ilco, Kaba AG, and Kaba Holding AG (DE 10). Plaintiff's amended complaint presents four claims, namely: (1) a request for declaratory relief from this court to the effect that an arbitration agreement alleged to be between plaintiff and defendant Kaba Ilco was unenforceable; (2) a claim against all defendants for false advertising in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 292; (3) a claim against all defendants for false advertising in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); and (4) a claim against all defendants for violations of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, N.C Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1 et seq. Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss plaintiff's first claim for relief, and to strike portions of plaintiff's complaint (DE 16). Therein, defendants also request that the court enter a prefiling injunction against plaintiff, enjoining him from filing further actions against defendant Kaba Ilco or related entities seeking to invalidate an arbitration award unless he first obtains permission from this court.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The facts as alleged by plaintiff are as follows: Plaintiff, a resident of Ontario, Canada, owns and operates CodePro Manufacturing ("CodePro"), which is primarily engaged in the business of creating and selling key cutting machines. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-11. In 1998, CodePro began selling a commercial key cutting machine, the CodePro 4500. Id . ¶ 22. In 2004, defendant Kaba Ilco, a limited liability North Carolina company, took an interest in the CodePro 4500. Id . ¶ 24. Defendant Kaba Ilco's parent companies are Swiss corporations: defendant Kaba AG, and defendant Kaba Holding, AG. Id . ¶¶ 14-15; see also Def. Kaba Ilco's Financial Disclosure Statement (DE 13). Defendant Kaba Ilco is engaged in, among other things, the business of creating and selling key cutting machines. Am. Compl. ¶ 19.

In 2006, plaintiff and defendant Kaba Ilco entered into an agreement whereby defendant Kaba Ilco obtained the intellectual property rights to the CodePro 4500. Id . ¶ 25. Pursuant to that agreement, plaintiff agreed to an eight-year, worldwide non-competition agreement. Id . ¶ 26. Plaintiff worked as a consultant to defendant Kaba Ilco between 2006 and 2008 to help create a new key cutting machine, the EZ Code machine. Id . ¶ 30. Relations between plaintiff and defendant Kaba Ilco deteriorated during this time. Defendant Kaba Ilco refused to pay plaintiff monies owed under their agreement and induced plaintiff to disclose the name of a third party engineering firm with whom he had worked in an attempt to interfere with their business relationship. Id . ¶¶ 30-39.

Plaintiff retained counsel, and on April 22, 2008, the parties entered into a settlement agreement, which included an arbitration agreement. Id . ¶¶ 40-42. In November, 2008, plaintiff brought a suit in Ontario, Canada, against defendant Kaba Ilco and their general manager, which was dismissed without prejudice by consent of all parties. Id . ¶¶ 46-48. Plaintiff filed a second suit in Ontario on September 23, 2010. Id . ¶ 49. This suit was stayed in favor of arbitration after plaintiff stipulated to same. Id . ¶ 50. The arbitrator held that the noncompetition agreement between plaintiff and defendant Kaba Ilco was unenforceable, but granted defendant Kaba Ilco's partial motion to dismiss other claims by plaintiff. Id . ¶¶ 53-54. Plaintiff filed suit in this court, seeking to vacate the arbitration award. Id . ¶ 55. This motion was denied by order entered September 16, 2013. See Gravelle v. Kaba Ilco Corp., No. 5:13-CV-160-FL, 2013 WL 5230355 (E.D. N.C. Sept. 16, 2013). Plaintiff appealed this order, which was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. See Gravelle v. Kaba Ilco Corp. ___ F.Appx. ___, 2014 WL 1099771 (4th Cir. Mar. 21, 2014).

COURT'S DISCUSSION

A. Motion to Dismiss

1. Standard of Review

The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is to eliminate claims that are factually or legally insufficient. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is stated if the complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 570). "Asking for plausible grounds... does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal [the] evidence" required to prove the claim. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556. Furthermore, the complaint need not set forth "detailed factual allegations, " but instead must simply "plead sufficient facts to allow a court, drawing on judicial experience and common sense, ' to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.'" Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v. Consumeraffairs.com, Inc. , 591 F.3d 250, 256 (4th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 679).

In evaluating whether a claim is stated, "[the] court accepts all well-pled facts as true and construes these facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, " but does not consider "legal conclusions, elements of a cause of action, ... bare assertions devoid of further factual enhancement[, ]... unwarranted ...


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