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Archived updates for Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Personal Jusrisdiction Established with Request to Remove Convention Exhibitor

In The Campbell Pet Co. v. Miale (September 18, 2008), the Federa Circuit held that the presence of the defendant patent owner in the State of Washington and her attempt to have a convention manager remove the allegedly infringing exhibitor, were sufficient to allow a federal district court in that state to exercise in personam jurisdiction over the defendants, a California corporation and a California resident.

According to the decision by Circuit Judge Bryson,

In June 2007, Ms. Miale attended a three-day convention in Seattle, Washington, sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. During that convention, Ms. Miale demonstrated her products and offered them for sale. In the course of the convention, she took two orders for tables from residents of Virginia and New York, for a total purchase price of $9,400. Plaintiff Campbell also had a display at the convention featuring its products. In the course of the convention, Ms. Miale and her mother confronted several of Campbell’s employees who were attending the convention and accused them of infringing the Miale patents. According to the Campbell employees, Ms. Miale said that she had contacted her patent attorney and threatened Campbell with patent litigation, stating that patent attorneys and litigation were expensive. The Campbell employees further alleged that the convention manager told them that Ms. Miale and her mother had asked that the Campbell display be removed from the convention because it infringed Ms. Miale’s patents, but that the convention manager had declined to do so on the ground that she was not qualified to evaluate a claim of patent infringement. The Campbell employees also alleged that a customer informed them that Ms. Miale and her mother were "bad mouthing" Campbell and its products to Campbell’s customers, and referred to Campbell as "copiers of their patent."

. . . In this case, the district court erred by characterizing Ms. Miale’s actions at the June 2007 convention as constituting nothing more than attempts to inform Campbell of suspected infringement. As Campbell points out, its employees’ affidavits assert that Ms. Miale did more at the trade show than simply inform Campbell that its animal stretchers might infringe her patents. The affidavits state that Ms. Miale attempted to have Campbell’s allegedly infringing products removed from the convention and that she told Campbell’s customers that Campbell’s products were infringing. Of critical importance to the issue of personal jurisdiction, Ms. Miale’s attempts at "extra-judicial patent enforcement" were targeted at Campbell’s business activities in Washington and can fairly be characterized as attempts to limit competition from Campbell at the Seattle convention. Those efforts go beyond simply informing the accused infringer of the patentee’s allegations of infringement.

. . . In this case, . . . the defendants’ conduct went beyond simply informing the plaintiff that they regarded the plaintiff’s products as infringing. According to the plaintiff’s allegations, which were credited by the district court for purposes of the motion to dismiss, the defendants took steps to interfere with the plaintiff’s business by enlisting a third party to take action against the plaintiff. Although Ms. Miale’s efforts in that regard were not successful (unlike the efforts of the defendant in the Dudnikov case), in that the exhibit manager at the Seattle convention allegedly declined to remove Campbell’s exhibit at Ms. Miale’s behest, the pertinent step taken by Ms. Miale was the request that action be taken. The fact that her efforts did not succeed does not affect whether it is fair and just to treat her actions directed at
Campbell as sufficient to trigger personal jurisdiction in the forum state. Moreover, unlike the situation in both Dudnikov and Bancroft & Masters, Ms. Miale’s efforts at private enforcement occurred within the forum state and while she was personally present there. Under these circumstances, we hold that it would not be contrary to the principles of the Red Wing Shoe line of cases for the district court to assert jurisdiction over Ms. Miale and Ty-Lift based on Campbell’s allegations.

. . . Because Campbell’s allegations in its affidavits and complaint provide a sufficient basis for the district court to exercise specific jurisdiction over the defendants, we reverse the district court’s dismissal of Campbell’s complaint and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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