Treasure Island's Battle Over MitchMason.com Heats Up
SAN FRANCISCO — Jeffrey Smith, the former Treasure Island Media marketing director accused of taking over the company's MitchMason.com website by registering it in a chance of opportunity, has asked a federal court to transfer a lawsuit against him by the studio to New York where he lives.
In the suit filed in March, Treasure Island Media officials said that Smith appropriated the website while working for the San Francisco-based gay studio in a scheme where he allegedly removed company executives as administrative users of online accounts and diverted company funds to purchase traffic for his own benefit.
Smith, who started to work for the company in January 2012, lead Treasure Island Media's marketing and its social media efforts, including writing blog posts under the "Mitch Mason" name. In February, however, Smith abruptly left the studio after registering the site, and to this day runs MitchMason.com, the suit said.
Treasure Island Media, which holds a trademark for Mitch Mason in relation to online adult services, slammed an array of charges against Smith, alleging cyberpiracy, breach of contract, trade secret appropriation, conversion, unjust enrichment, false designation of origin, unfair competition and violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The San Francisco studio is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction over Smith's use of the Mitch Mason trademark, a transfer of the MitchMason.com domain name and $630,000 in damages, as well as profits realized by Smith using MitchMason.com.
MitchMason.com centers around the fictional Mitch Mason, a "go-go dancer-turned-business school student-turned-club promoter-turned adult blogger" and relative of another Treasure Island Media brand and depiction, Matt Mason.
Last month, Smith responded to the suit by asking San Francisco federal court to allow a transfer of the case to New York because he lives there and that it would create "undue and extreme hardship" to travel to California for the case.
Besides, Smith said, Treasure Island Media operates a satellite office in New York City, with "a headcount of no fewer than six employees, including a key member" of the company's board of directors.
Smith asked the court to either dismiss the case or transfer it.
Earlier this week, Treasure Island Media attorneys responded to Smith's request for a transfer, asking the court to deny it because the venue is proper, namely because his dealings with the studio were negotiated, entered into and substantially performed in California.
Treasure Island Media lawyers additionally noted to the court that the studio intends to call 10 employees located in San Francisco as witnesses and that all the company's corporate records are located there.
They also told the court, that contrary to Smith's earlier statements that he has on intention to move back or even travel to California, that a recent trip to the state "undermines his contentions" that he would suffer "undue and extreme" hardship attempting to defend himself in San Francisco.
Treasure Island Media attorneys told the court that nine days after Smith filed the request for the transfer, he traveled to California "ostensibly to attend a party." "Defendant’s own social media postings demonstrate his ability to travel to and from California," they said.
"On April 24, 2014, defendant posted 'Good morning LA!' and tagged himself at Crunch Fitness — Sunset, a gym in Los Angeles," Treasure Island Media lawyers said. "Also on April 24, 2014, defendant tagged himself at Kitchen 24, West Hollywood, a restaurant located in Los Angeles. The following day, April 25, 2014, defendant appeared in a photograph posted on his Facebook page and tagged 'near Palm Springs.'"
Smith's motion — premised on convenience – should be denied, Treasure Island Media attorneys said, because he has a "demonstrated ability to travel to California, and plaintiff is the master of its complaint."
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte will hear the motion to transfer the case on June 3.
Treasure Island Media attorneys and Smith did not immediately respond to XBIZ requests over comment in the case.