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Personal Jurisdiction Issue Requires Further Discovery

January 19, 2005

Decision icon Decision

Last Month at the Federal Circuit - February 2005

Judges: Friedman (author), Rader, and Bryson

In Trintec Industries, Inc. v. Pedre Promotional Products, Inc., No. 04-1293 (Fed. Cir. Jan 19, 2005), the Federal Circuit vacated a district court’s dismissal of a patent suit for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Plaintiffs, Trintec Industries, Inc., a Canadian corporation, and Time To Invent, LLC, a District of Columbia corporation (collectively “Trintec”), sued Pedre Promotional Products, Inc. (“Pedre”) for patent infringement in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Pedre is a New York corporation with its main office in New York City. Pedre moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue and wanted to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Pedre sells watches and clocks to distributors throughout the U.S. through a sales organization called Multiline Marketing Group, Inc. (“Multiline”) based in Florida. The Multiline sales representativecovering the Washington, D.C., area spends approximately four to five days per year visiting clients in Washington, D.C. Pedre maintains a Web site, which, of course, can be accessed from residences and potential customers in Washington, D.C. The Web site offers accused infringing products for sale in Washington, D.C. Potential customers in Washington, D.C., can also place orders at a toll-free “800 number.” Pedre has exhibited products at national and regional shows in Washington, D.C., and has made watch sales to the U.S. Postal Service, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Circuit observed that specific personal jurisdiction in the District of Columbia depends on its long-arm statute. The Federal Circuit concluded that Pedre’s Web site is not directed at customers in the District of Columbia but instead is available to all customers throughout the country. The ability of District residents to access the Defendant’s Web site, therefore, does not by itself show any persistent course of conduct by the Defendant in the District. The Court concluded, unfortunately, that the additional facts upon which Trintec relied are too ambiguous to permit it to make an informed judgment on the jurisdictional issue. Likewise, the incomplete record did not permit the Federal Circuit to determine whether Pedre had continuous and systematic contacts with the District sufficient to give rise to general jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit remanded the case, suggesting that Trintec is entitled to jurisdictional discovery.