Application of “effects test” brings pool table manufacturer out from behind the personal jurisdiction 8-ball

In the case of Brunswick Bowling & Billiards Corp. v. Pool Tables Plus, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that the listing of the defendant’s company name, address and email address on two websites did not give rise to personal jurisdiction under the “sliding scale” test. Application of the effects test to defendant’s non-Internet activities, however, was sufficient for the exercise of personal jurisdiction.

Brunswick sued its competitor Pool Tables Plus in the Northern District of Illinois for various Lanham Act and state law violations, accusing Pool Tables Plus of misrepresenting both the relationship between Brunswick and Pool Tables Plus and the quality of Brunswick’s products. Pool Tables Plus moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, submitting an affidavit stating it was “completely devoid of Illinois contacts.”

In determining the question of personal jurisdiction, the court began by applying the “sliding scale” test articulated in the case of Watchworks v. Total Time, Inc., 2002 WL 424631 (N.D.Ill. 2002). Under this test, the court determined that the presence of defendant’s mailing address and email address on websites found at http://www.superpages.com and http://www.pooltablesflorida.com did not make the defendant’s business conducted over the Internet sufficiently “active” to show minimum contacts with Illinois. Thus, the court declined to exercise personal jurisdiction on this basis.

Under the “effects test,” however, set forth in the case of Riddell, Inv. v. Impact Protective Equip., L.L.C., 2003 WL 21799935 (N.D.Ill. 2003), the court determined that the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be proper. The defendant’s non-Internet activities, namely, making representations to its customers about Brunswick, caused harm to Brunswick that was felt in Illinois. Furthermore, Illinois had an interest in adjudicating a case in which harm to a business within its borders was alleged.

Even though the court held that it could exercise personal jurisdiction over Pool Tables Plus, it dismissed the case on venue grounds.

Brunswick Bowling & Billiards Corp. v. Pool Tables Plus, Inc., 2005 WL 396304 (N.D.Ill., February 16, 2005).