Case of the Day: Peanuts Worldwide v. Schedule A

Charlie Brown and Linus, from the Peanuts

The case of the day is Peanuts Worldwide LLC v. Partnerships and Unincorporated Associations Identified on Schedule A (N.D. Ill. 2024). The case is a so-called “Schedule A” case brought by an intellectual property owner against many unknown parties allegedly infringing the IP on the web. Here, the plaintiff owned the copyrights and trademarks covering Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts. One of the defendants was “Electrician Guy.” The plaintiff sought and receive to serve process on it by email, even though (apparently) the physical address of “Electrician Guy” in China was known.

After the court entered a default judgment, and somewhat surprisingly, Electrician Guy appeared and moved to set aside the judgment on the grounds that the service was void. The question was whether service by email in China was valid. The court recognized the cases holding that service by email is improper, though it did not give the best reason for that outcome. The best reason is that the Convention is exclusive under Volkswagenwerk v. Schlunk. Suppose you think that China’s objection under Article 10(a) is not enough because objections to service by postal channels do not extend to service by email. Fine. What provision of the Convention does authorize or permit service by email? None. I made a haiku out of this once.

Limited methods.
Email is not on the list.
The plaintiff’s sad tears.

We should have some more guidance from the Special Commission of the Hague Conference on Private International Law on the Operation of the Service, Evidence, and Access to Justice Conventions about how to interpret the scope of Article 10 declarations, so watch this space.

A second interesting question in the case was the timeliness of the motion to set aside the judgment, which came nine weeks after the judgment. To my surprise, the court held that that was too late for a motion under FRCP 60(b)(1), which governs motions based on “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.” It cited cases finding even four weeks too late! Fortunately for the defendant, the Court also considered the motion under FRCP 60(b)(4), which governs claims that the judgment is void, even though that rule had arguably been waived. And the motion was clearly timely under that heading.

Finally, it’s unfortunate that the court held that arguments under Articles 15 and 16 of the Convention, which address default judgmnets, were waived by their omission in the main brief. Of course, to raise an Article 15 or 16 argument, you have to appear in the court that entered the judgment, and in cases like this, defendants often don’t want to do that.

Image credit: Otterbein University Theatre & Dance (CC BY-SA)

2 responses to “Case of the Day: Peanuts Worldwide v. Schedule A”

  1. Eddie Varon Levy

    Happy Fourth of July Ted. Albeit a little late .

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