Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Personal Jurisdiction and the Internet

A panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a district court's grant of a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction in a case filed in the Middle District of Florida against a Tennessee resident that allegedly used the plaintiff's trademarked name and his picture on a website accessible in Florida.  The defendant argued that his website was not a sufficient contact upon which the FL court could exercise personal jurisdiction. 

The court first established that although the website was created in TN, the FL long-arm statute permitted the exercise of jurisdiction if the alleged trademark infringement on the site caused injury in FL.  The court next turned to whether the due process clause permitted such an exercise.  Looking to both the Seventh Circuit and the Ninth Circuit, the court reasoned that "the defendant's connection with the forum in an intentional tort case should be evaluated under the Calder 'effects' test, rather than the contracts-oriented 'minimum contacts' test."  The court then applied the three element test and concluded that the allegations "satisfy the Calder effects test for personal jurisdiction - the commission of an intentional tort, expressly aimed at a specific individual in the forum whose effects were suffered in the forum."

In Footnote 8 the court explained that this decision was not intended to establish any general rule for personal jurisdiction in the internet context:

We do not, by our decision today, intend to establish any general rule for personal jurisdiction in the internet context. Our holding, as always, is limited to the facts before us. We hold only that where the internet is used as a vehicle for the deliberate, intentional misappropriation of a specific individual’s trademarked name or likeness and that use is aimed at the victim’s state of residence, the victim may hale the infringer into that state to obtain redress for the injury. The victim need not travel to the state where the website was created or the infringer resides to obtain relief.

Read the full opinion here.



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