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Notice of Infringement Plus Other Conduct Confers Personal Jurisdiction Without Offending "Fair Play and Substantial Justice"


In Campbell Pet Co. v. Miale (No. 2008-1109; Sept. 18, 2008), the Federal Circuit clarifies that although personal jurisdiction does not attach to a party simply because it provides notice to a potential infringer, notice plus other conduct may confer personal jurisdiction.

Plaintiff Campbell Pet Co. and the defendants, Miale and her corporation, TY-Lift Enterprises, sold mobile stretchers for transporting injured animals. Campbell Pet did business in Washington state. The defendants operated from California and sold their stretchers via an internet website as well as other means. In the eight years preceding the lawsuit, the defendants made occasional sales to Washington residents. In June 2007, Campbell Pet and the defendants attended the same veterinary convention in Seattle. Each party had a booth where they were selling their stretchers. At the convention, Miale confronted Campbell Pet representatives, accused the company of infringing the defendants' patents on mobile stretchers, disparaged Campbell Pet in front of customers, and sought to have Campbell Pet's display removed from the convention. Shortly after the convention ended, the defendants sent Campbell Pet a letter accusing it of infringement. In response, Campbell Pet filed suit in Washington seeking a declaration of non-infringement and invalidity of the defendants' patents. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Citing a previous Federal Circuit opinion holding that merely informing a potential infringer of patent rights does not confer personal jurisdiction, the district court granted the motion.

The Federal Circuit reverses the district court's holding that it did not have specific jurisdiction. Agreeing that the defendants purposefully availed themselves of the forum and that the litigation resulted from the activities in the forum, the Federal Circuit focuses on the last prong of the specific jurisdiction test: whether exercising jurisdiction comports with "fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 320 (1945). Because the district court heavily relied on Red Wing Shoe Co. v. Hockerson-Halberstadt, Inc., 148 F.3d 1355 (Fed. Cir. 2003) in its analysis of "fair play," the Federal Circuit clarifies the precedent. Red Wing and other cases held that notice, without more, cannot confer jurisdiction without raising due process concerns. Here, however, the defendants went beyond merely giving notice by interfering with Campbell Pet's customers and seeking to stop its sales at the convention. Accordingly, the Federal Circuit holds that the district court has specific jurisdiction over the defendants.

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Mark Supko
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