In Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC v. Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex, P.A., ___ F.3d ___, 2010 WL 3811319 (7th Cir. Oct. 1, 2010), the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a claim brought under the federal anti-cybersquatting statute for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The plaintiff, Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC, is a Chicago company that contracts with medical offices to provide on-site anesthesia services and owns a federally-registered trademark in MOBILE ANESTHESIOLOGISTS. It's website is located at www.mobileanesthesiologists.com.
Defendant Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex is a one-doctor company providing similar services in Houston, Texas. Defendant registered the domain name www.mobileanesthesia.com and Plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, claiming that such registration violated the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, 15 U.S.C. section 1125(d).
The District Court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that Defendant had no meaningful contacts with the State of Illinois and that Defendant's website was not was not directed at Illinois or intended to do harm in Illinois. Plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, Plaintiff argued that Defendant had done two things in Texas which would subject it to personal jurisdiction in Illinois under the United States Supreme Court's holding in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). First, Defendant maintained a website with a name similar to Plaintiff's trademark after having constructive notice of the trademark. Second, Defendant maintained its website after receiving actual notice of Plaintiff's identity, location, and ownership of a trademark similar to the name of Defendant's website. Plaintiff contended that these facts demonstrated that Defendant intended to injury Plaintiff in Illinois, thereby subjecting itself to jurisdiction in Illinois.
In Calder, the Supreme Court held that sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state may be imputed to a defendant who is accused of committing an intentional tort by actions "expressly aimed" at the forum state. What many courts refer to as the "Calder effects test," the Seventh Circuit refers to as the "express aiming test" to properly focus attention on the issue of whether the defendant intentionally aimed its conduct at the forum state "rather than on the possibly incidental and constitutionally irrelevant effects of that conduct on the plaintiff." Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC, 2010 WL 3811319, at *4 n. 1. The Court made clear that "a defendant's intentional tort creates the requisite minimum contacts with a state only when the defendant expressly aims its actions at the state with the knowledge that they would cause harm to the plaintiff there." Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC, 2010 WL 3811319, at *5.
Accordingly, the Court found that Plaintiff's evidence that Defendant expressly aimed its conduct at Illinois was inadequate. Merely maintaining a website accessible to residents of the forum state and allegedly causing harm through the website does not satisfy the Calder standard. Though a defendant's "deliberate and continuous exploitation of the market in a forum state, accomplished through its website as well as through other contacts with the state" can be sufficient to establish specific jurisdiction over the defendant, the Court held that Defendant had not undertaken such exploitation.
Moreover, the Court held that Defendant's constructive or actual knowledge that Plaintiff was an Illinois company with a federally-registered trademark was not sufficient to demonstrate that Defendant was intentionally directing tortious activities at Illinois. All of the cases that have found express aiming have relied upon evidence beyond the plaintiff's mere residence in the forum.