District Court Dismisses Copyright Infringement Claim Directed To Thousands of Non-U.S. Websites Where No Targeting or Sales to Forum Shown

The World in U.S. Courts: Summer and Fall 2016 - Intellectual Property – Copyright

American Bridal & Prom Industry Association, Inc. v. Multiple defendants, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, June 29, 2016

Plaintiffs are designers and manufacturers of bridal apparel, and their trade association.  They sued individuals and entities that allegedly operated thousands of non-U.S. websites selling garments that allegedly infringed on the plaintiffs’ trademarks, and sought a preliminary injunction.

The District Court in Chicago first considered whether it could assert personal jurisdiction over the defendants, employing the familiar test that asks whether the defendants have “minimum contacts with [Illinois] such that maintenance of the suit [here] does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’”  Only specific personal jurisdiction was alleged, and the only basis for that jurisdiction was the defendants’ alleged maintenance of interactive websites and sales and offers for sale of allegedly infringing garments that were allegedly made to residents in Illinois.  The Court entered a temporary restraining order based on this allegation, but for the relief to be continued through a preliminary injunction the Court required the plaintiffs to produce evidence to back up their allegations:  That each of the thousands of websites being challenged by the plaintiffs was actually targeting Illinois residents and selling and offering to sell them infringing garments.  The plaintiffs declined to attempt such a showing, arguing instead that the mere maintenance of interactive websites satisfied constitutional requirements for the assertion of jurisdiction.

The Court disagreed.  It found that the Due Process Clause requires that each defendant’s deliberate actions within the State be examined.  The mere capability of an interactive website to be used by an Illinois resident was not enough; rather, the Court stated it was required to look for evidence that a defendant “targeted” Illinois or otherwise.  Such targeting could be shown through evidence that the website was more accessible in Illinois than anywhere else in the world, that any Illinois residents actually accessed the websites; that an injury occurred in Illinois; or that any of the defendants specifically agreed to ship to Illinois or otherwise reached out to, or expressly aimed their activities at, Illinois or its residents.

Finding the plaintiffs unlikely able to establish personal jurisdiction, the Court denied their request for preliminary relief and dismissed the case.

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