A blog about patent, copyright and trademark law in the U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York

Court Denied Defendant’s Motion To Dismiss For Lack of Personal Jurisdiction Where A Hong Kong Based Website Shipped A Single Allegedly Counterfeit Good Into New York.

In a February 18, 2014 ruling, Judge Richard J. Sullivan ruled that New York’s Long Arm statute conferred personal jurisdiction over Defendant Dress Market Ltd., a Hong Kong based dress distributor which sells its dresses through its interactive website, when it shipped a single, allegedly counterfeit product into New York in response to an order from plaintiff’s counsel. The defendant did not challenge whether it been properly served with process. Rather, the defendant argued that it did not have “sufficient contacts” with New York for the court to exercise personal jurisdiction.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(A), a federal court has jurisdiction over a defendant that has been properly served if the defendant "is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located." Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(1)(A). Absent personal service within the state, New York state courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-domiciliary only as permitted by New York's long-arm statute. N.Y. C.P.L.R. § 302. In addition, even if New York law allows for jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction in the case must "comport with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution" – i.e., there must be minimum contacts with the forum jurisdiction.

The Court deemed it unnecessary to engage in a detailed “minimum contacts” analysis because it found that the facts in this matter were legally indistinguishable from the facts of the Second Circuit’s controlling decision in Abc v. Queen Bee of Beverly Hills, LLC, 616 F.3d 158, 161 (2d Cir. 2010). In Queen Bee, the Second Circuit found that New York's long-arm statute and the "minimal contacts" inquiry of Due Process were satisfied when the defendant (l) shipped a single, allegedly counterfeit product into New York; (2) "operated a highly interactive website offering such [products] for sale to New York customers"; and (3) "engaged in fifty-two other transactions where merchandise was shipped to New York." Here, defendant shipped at least one dress into New York that allegedly infringes Plaintiffs' Sherri Hill’s copyrights, albeit in response to an order from plaintiffs' attorneys.

The only distinction between the fact pattern in this matter and Queen Bee was that plaintiff had not shown evidence of fifty-two other transactions in New York. The Court found, however, that this difference was irrelevant. Queen Bee emphasized that the crux of the long-arm statute and the Due Process Clause was whether the defendant had "purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws." That requirement was met, the court ruled, where the defendant has "developed and served a market for its products" within New York, and "might well be" satisfied by the shipping of a single product alone. Accordingly, the Court determined that personal jurisdiction was appropriate under New York’s long-arm statute and the Due Process “minimal contacts” inquiry.

The Court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
The general information and thoughts posted to this blog are provided only as an informational service to the web community and do not constitute solicitation or provision of legal advice. Nothing on this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship and nothing posted constitutes legal advice. You should understand that the posts by the author, who is an attorney at U.S. law firm Allegaert, Berger & Vogel, may or may not reflect the views of that firm and that the author of this blog is only authorized to practice law in the jurisdictions in which he is properly licensed to do so. For additional information, click here.