Qatar Airways Dismissed for Improperly Joining Lawsuit as a Third Party Asserting New “Counterclaims”

By: James Juo

The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado issued an order dismissing Qatar Airways from Mehdiyev v. Qatar National Tourism Council, No. 19-cv-03353-DDD-NRN, on April 1, 2021.

Teymur Mehdiyev had filed for declaratory judgment of no cybersquatting in connection with the domain name <visitqatar.com> against Qatar National Tourism Council (“NTC”). In response, NTC asserted counterclaims of trademark infringement against Mehdiyev based on NTC’s alleged trademark rights in the VISIT QATAR mark because the words “Visit Qatar” appear on Mehdiyev’s website at <visitqatar.com>. That same pleading also included new counterclaims by third-party Qatar Airways asserting trademark infringement of Qatar Airways’ “Oryx Marks” because Mehdiyev’s website at <visitqatar.com> also includes a silhouette of an oryx, which is the national animal of Qatar.

Mehdiyev filed a motion to dismiss Qatar Airways for improperly joining the lawsuit without seeking leave of court, and also for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction.
Qatar Airways argued that it properly joined the suit under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the counterclaims of both NTC and Qatar Airways relate to a single, allegedly infringing logo on Mehdiyev’s website.
The Court, however, found that Qatar Airways “is not seeking to become a party to [NTC’s] counterclaim, but to assert its own related, but distinct claims.”

[I]t’s not clear that Qatar Airways qualifies as a “counterclaimant” in the first place, given that Mr. Mehdiyev has brought no claims against it and it has not joined the Council’s existing counterclaims. Qatar Airways better resembles a third-party plaintiff or intervenor, so Qatar                   Airways’ invocation of Rule 13 is somewhat dubious. The text of the relevant rules does not seem to contemplate this maneuver.

The Court also noted that “a plaintiff generally consents to the court having personal jurisdiction over counterclaims brought against him by someone he sues…. But it is less clear if that consent extends to independent claims asserted by a third party whom the plaintiff never sued in the first instance, even if those claims may have some factual similarity to the plaintiff’s original claims.”

Accordingly, the court declined to exercise its discretion to allow Qatar Airways to join the case.

Mehdiyev was represented by James Juo and Thomas P. Howard of THOMAS P. HOWARD LLC.