Airbus Asks Court To Dismiss Chuck Yeager's Lawsuit, Pointing Out It Doesn't Allege Anything Actionable

from the breaking-barriers dept

You may recall that last summer we wrote about how American aviation legend Chuck Yeager decided to sue Airbus when the company mentioned the fact that Yeager broke the sound barrier in marketing material. Yeager's lawyer is Lincoln Bandlow, who has spent much of the past few years as a copyright troll after a formerly respectable career in which he once touted himself a free-speech fighter. His complaint, however, served mostly as comedic material. There were claims of trademark infringement and violation of Yeager's publicity rights. Neither made much sense, as repeating a historical fact, even in marketing material, does not constitute either violation and is clearly protected speech. It was only a matter of time before Airbus responded and now we have that response.

Airbus is apparently seeking dismissal by the court on two grounds. The first, and least interesting, is on jurisdictional grounds, as you can read in the filing (which other news sites seem not to have included for reasons beyond me).

Plaintiffs allege that AIRBUS U.S. “has offices throughout the United States, including an office in Huntington Beach, California”..., and that AHI is based in Grand Prairie, Texas..... But neither company is incorporated in California or has its principal place of business in California, nor are they any allegations in the Complaint that could even remotely warrant deeming this an “exceptional case.” Accordingly, under Daimler, general jurisdiction in California is precluded. See, e.g., Martinez, 764 F. 3d at 1070 (noting that Daimler rejected the argument that general jurisdiction is present when a defendant “engages in a substantial, continuous, and systematic course of business” in a state; denying assertion of general jurisdiction when forum is not state of incorporation or principal place of business of defendant); Perry v. Brown, 2019 WL 1452911, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2019), aff’d and remanded, 2019 WL 5787987 (9th Cir. Nov. 6, 2019) (no general jurisdiction over defendant incorporated in Tennessee; recognizing that “there is nothing about this case that would suggest it is an exceptional case that would justify finding general jurisdiction outside of Defendant’s state of residency.”).

So, yeah. Nothing about this case makes it exceptional to escape the normal jurisdictional restrictions. Given its overall flimsy nature, I wouldn't be shocked to see the court comply with the dismissal on this alone.

But the response goes on to point out that Yeager and his lawyer seem to have gotten very, very confused about which company he's supposed to be suing, believing that a European company is connected to an American company, when they're actually not.

Plaintiffs do not allege that either AHI or AIRBUS U.S. committed any intentional act, let alone any intentional act that is relevant to the claims in the Complaint. The only “intentional acts” alleged in the Complaint relate to the use of Yeager’s name in the 2017 statement from the Paris Air Show, the publication of the statement on the Airbus.com website, and the alleged video of Yeager visiting Munich and Toulouse. Yet, there are no allegations in the Complaint even suggesting that any of this––all of which allegedly took place in Europe––had anything to do with Texas-based AHI or Virginia-based AIRBUS U.S.

In fact, the only mention of either of these Defendants in connection with the substantive allegations of the Complaint is the statement in Paragraph 21 that Lutz Bertling was the CEO of “Eurocopter” which, Plaintiffs’ allege, is the “predecessor” of Defendant AHI.... But that assertion is demonstrably false. The company of which Bertling was the CEO is Eurocopter S.A.S., the prior name of Airbus Helicopters S.A.S., the French company that has not been named in this action.

The response goes on to point that even if you could say that suing American companies for actions of a different (even if connected) European company, none of the actions that are being sued over involved conduct aimed at California, where the suite has been filed:

The actions relating to the 2017 statement and the alleged undated video were not expressly aimed at the state of California. The challenged statement was made in France about a European-focused project and then published on a passive website registered by a European company that is not directed to any particular location.... Beyond the fact that the 2017 statement is in English, there is nothing to indicate that it was directed specifically at the United States, much less that it was expressly aimed at California or any other specific place within the United States. In fact, the repeated use of British spelling in the statement (not to mention the substance of the statement) confirms that, if anything, the statement was directed to a European audience, not to the United States more generally or to California specifically. The allegations about the supposed misuse of a video made in 2008 in Europe are sparse, to say the least. There certainly are none connecting the alleged misuse of the alleged video to California.

There's also a statute of limitations problem to toss on top of everything else, which they note Yeager should certainly know about since some of his previous similar lawsuits have been tossed out for this reason:

The Complaint alleges that Plaintiffs learned of the alleged misuse of this purported video sometime in 2012––more than six years before the Complaint was filed in September 2019. Because all of Plaintiffs’ claims are subject to statutes of limitations well short of six years, they are all time-barred. Indeed, the Ninth Circuit has affirmed dismissal of several of Yeager’s prior lawsuits based on similar types of claims because he filed them beyond the applicable limitations periods.

And then after all that, finally, the complaint highlights that even if jurisdiction is proper, and even if they get lumped in with the other companies, the whole thing is still a joke because Yeager admits in his complaint that Airbus has the right to do what it did:

These allegations do not state a violation of any intellectual property or contract rights. Plaintiffs expressly allege that “Airbus” had the right to show the purported video to employees. That is, the Complaint does not allege any facts showing that Airbus used Yeager’s name or likeness beyond what Plaintiffs allege Yeager expressly authorized.

As we said in our original post, there doesn't appear to be anything at all wrong with what Airbus did in referencing a fact about Chuck Yeager. On a more personal note, it's quite sad to see an American hero reduced to trying to profiteer off of the mere mention of his achievements.

Filed Under: chuck yeager, jurisdiction, lincoln bandlow, publicity rights, trademark
Companies: airbus


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2020 @ 3:14pm

    The bar must be very low these days

    Apparently even a not-quite-potty-trained monkey can pass the bar exam now. So. Many. Stupid. Lawyers.

    I don't blame the lawyer for taking Yeager's money. If this one hadn't then another would. And clearly Yeager has gone utterly senile. But the lawyer couldn't even manage to figure out who to sue and where, nevermind craft their claims to pass the smell test. I'm guessing (hoping?) they bought themselves a fake diploma

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2020 @ 4:18pm

    Heroes.... pffft.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 17 Jan 2020 @ 5:11pm

    Yeager is 96 years old...give him a break

    At that age he probably has little idea what's going on around him. I don't think he's been seen in public in a long time.

    I'll guess that his greedy kids are colluding with the shyster, hoping for a quick "go away" payoff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 17 Jan 2020 @ 7:04pm

      Re: Yeager is 96 years old...give him a break

      He is estranged from his kids (now adults). Such lawsuits are not their idea...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      OGquaker, 22 Jan 2020 @ 1:34pm

      Re: Yeager is 96 years old...give me a break

      I have a original book, composed of monthly installments mailed as a subscription over a few years, each comes with book binding instructions. "Famous And Important People Through The Ages" lived many times as long as we can imagine today, and are none of the news clowns you know of today.

      https://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/galloway_space_act.html

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Yeager, 4 Feb 2020 @ 12:42pm

      Re: Yeager is 96 years old...give him a break

      His kids were kicked to the curb YEARS ago. Maybe you should look at how many lawsuits Chuck Yeager has been involved in prior to meeting and marrying Victoria D'Angelo and how many lawsuits he has been involved in after. Chuck Yeager doesn't give a fuck about anything besides flying fishing and hunting. You think he has the legal know how or care to sue someone for talking about an achievement he did in his lifetime? Everything Chuck Yeager (Twitter, website, lawsuits) is really Victoria Yeager who is 40+ years his junior trying to capitalize on the brainwashing program she implemented on him.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 17 Jan 2020 @ 5:17pm

    "La vieillesse est un naufrage."

    "Old age is a shipwreck," said De Gaulle of his former mentor Philippe Petain, living too long after heroic achievements in WW 1. Similarly, the 96-year-old Yeager is currently known for bogus lawsuits (not just this one), and estranged from his (adult) children.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2020 @ 8:35pm

      Re: "La vieillesse est un naufrage."

      It is usually the most wicked and corrupt of the masses that blames other people's actions (who they don't know at all) on poor character.

      Your post is a mirror to yourself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2020 @ 7:30pm

    I live where Chuck Yeager does

    He’s known locally as a very grumpy old man.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2020 @ 8:33pm

      Re: I live where Chuck Yeager does

      Well if you want to lighten him up, tell him to get some REAL news HERE: https://babylonbee.com/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Dave P., 18 Jan 2020 @ 7:45am

        Re: Re: I live where Chuck Yeager does

        Oh, for crying out loud, A/C (although I suspect it's probably ol' blue b*lls in disguise) - nobody wants to know about your stupid, contrived recommendations. Stick to the topic in hand and put a sock in it - and I'm not referring to the usual vocal orifice, either - if you have the limited intelligence to know what an orifice is.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2020 @ 9:28pm

        Re: Re: I live where Chuck Yeager does

        I told Chuck Yeager that Shiva Ayyadurai didn't invent email. He nodded and said, "Son, that there is some real news!"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Blessing Bona, 17 Jan 2020 @ 10:42pm

    Yeager and the lawyer make two

    I think both the lawyer and Yeager have a hand in this. Being 96 doesn't always mean stoned head (or brains, if you choose). I just think this is a plot gone wrong.
    Maybe they didn't finish the math equation before submitting their papers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 18 Jan 2020 @ 1:28pm

    Hmm, I'm older now.

    Chuck Yeager is older than myself. Which gives me pause.

    Why, because I wonder who is wanting to profit off his previous exploits? Is it actually Yeager, or someone currently close to him is the actual concern.

    Whether this is poison being poured into his ear from within or without might never be known. But, it does give pause.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dickeyrat, 18 Jan 2020 @ 2:51pm

    "... it's quite sad to see an American hero reduced to trying to profiteer off of the mere mention of his achievements." It's even sadder that so many people think Yeager is indeed some kind of "hero", when he just happened to be the one of a number of capable test pilots, in the cockpit breaking the record that fateful day. I personally and briefly dealt with Yeager some 35 years ago, in my capacity working in media at the time. Much to my disappointment, I found him to be a chrome-plated ass, convinced that the world owed him an inventory of worship for his so-called "heroism". This whole action against Airbus represents a desperate clawing at last-minute-of-life publicity by a pathetic character, and Yeager should be handed a hefty bill for attorneys' fees stemming from his abuse of the legal system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    OGquaker, 22 Jan 2020 @ 5:46pm

    OK Boomer, just die already

    I guess with so many murdered reporters in the last 20 years, your chance to survive was 50/50 like Yeager's? My hats off to you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jan 2020 @ 7:56am

    Lincoln Bandlow is a parasite and a grifter. Like Paul Hansmeier, he is driven largely by lust for easy money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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