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Sneha Media & Entertainment, LLC v. Associated Broadcasting Company P Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 18, 2018

SNEHA MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT, LLC; NORD SINEW TECHNOLOGIES (I) PVT LTD., Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
ASSOCIATED BROADCASTING COMPANY P LTD., Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: September 25, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Leonie M. Brinkema, District Judge. (1:16-cv-01386-LMB-MSN)

         ARGUED:

          George A. Somerville, HARMAN CLAYTOR CORRIGAN & WELLMAN, P.C., Glen Allen, Virginia, for Appellants.

          Christopher Stephen Johns, JOHNS & COUNSEL, PLLC, Austin, Texas, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Isak Howell, ISAK HOWELL LAW OFFICE, Roanoke, Virginia; Zev Kusin, JOHNS MARRS ELLIS & HODGE LLP, Austin, Texas, for Appellee.

          Before NIEMEYER, DIAZ, and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.

          NIEMEYER, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         Sneha Media & Entertainment, LLC, a Virginia company, and Nord Sinew Technologies (I) PVT Ltd., an Indian company, commenced this action in the Eastern District of Virginia against Associated Broadcasting Company, another Indian company, for breach of contract and related causes of action arising from a dispute over the plaintiffs' right to distribute in the United States TV programming that Associated Broadcasting produced in India. Associated Broadcasting filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction in Virginia, and the district court granted the motion. Because Sneha and Nord failed to demonstrate that Associated Broadcasting had the minimum contacts with Virginia that are sufficient to satisfy the Due Process Clause, we affirm.

         I

         Associated Broadcasting is a news network in India that produces around-the-clock news and current affairs broadcasts on its TV9 channels for the Telugu, Kannada, and Gujarati speaking peoples in India. It claims to be one of the fastest-growing news networks in India. In 2009, it signed an agreement in India with Nord, granting Nord the exclusive right to distribute Associated Broadcasting's TV9 content anywhere outside India. In turn, Nord entered into an agreement with Sneha, granting it the right to distribute Associated Broadcasting's TV9 content in North America and Europe. Nord and Sneha are related insofar as Ramesh Annamreddy serves as the CEO of both companies.

         In 2011, Associated Broadcasting and Nord signed an addendum to their agreement in which the parties recognized that Sneha would be distributing TV9 content in the United States and that Associated Broadcasting would not compete with Nord or Sneha but that they would "work together" to maximize returns under their original contract.

         Several years later, Sneha entered into an agreement with DISH Network in the United States to deliver Associated Broadcasting's TV9 content over DISH's satellite network. When, however, Associated Broadcasting represented to DISH that it possessed the exclusive rights to TV9 content, Sneha and Nord commenced this action, alleging that Associated Broadcasting breached its distribution contract with Nord, interfered with Sneha's alleged contract with DISH Network, and violated Sneha and Nord's federal copyright interests in TV9 content.

         Associated Broadcasting filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court scheduled a hearing and, after the parties filed affidavits, exhibits, and memoranda of law relating to the motion, the court conducted the hearing, at which it granted the motion. The court concluded that the minimal contacts that Associated Broadcasting had with Virginia were not the type of "purposeful contacts with the forum that would allow the court to exercise jurisdiction over it."

         Associated Broadcasting presented evidence that it entered into a contract only with Nord, that it did so in India, and that it did not have a contractual relationship with Sneha. It also presented evidence that it was incorporated in India with its principal place of business in Hyderabad, India, and that "all of [its] employees, officers, and directors are based in its Indian offices." It ...


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