Willful copyright infringement constitutes “purposeful direction” in personal jurisdiction analysis

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has confirmed that a defendant subjects itself to specific personal jurisdiction in a forum when it (1) willfully infringes the copyright of a resident of that forum, and (2) knows the plaintiff’s principal place of business is in that forum.

Brayton Purcell LLP, a California law firm, sued Recordon & Recordon, another California law firm, for copyright infringement in the Northern District of California after discovering that Recordon & Recordon had allegedly copied several pages of Brayton Purcell’s website and posted them on its own site. Brayton Purcell is located in the Northern District of California, while Recordon & Recordon is located in the Southern District.

Recordon & Recordon moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Because defendant is a resident of the forum state, the court noted that (a la Pennoyer v. Neff) personal jurisdiction was not at issue, but construed defendant’s motion as one challenging venue. Acting under Ninth Circuit authority interpreting the venue provision for copyright matters (28 U.S.C. §1400(a)), the court applied a personal jurisdiction analysis to answer the question of whether venue was proper in the Northern District.

The analysis eventually became one of whether the court could exercise specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant. One of the elements that must be proven to substantiate specific personal jurisdiction in a copyright infringement action is that the defendant purposefully directed activities to the forum. Proof of such “purposeful direction” satisfies the “effects test” set forth in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1983). In this case, the court applied the powerful jurisdictional holding of Columbia Pictures Television v. Krypton Broadcasting of Birmingham, Inc., 106 F.3d 284 (9th Cir. 1997) to conclude that defendant had made such a purposeful direction of activity.

In the Columbia Pictures case, the Ninth Circuit held that the defendant subjected itself to personal jurisdiction in another state where it had “willfully infringed copyrights owned by Columbia, which as [the defendant] knew, had is principal place of business in [the forum district].” The court in this case concluded that Columbia Pictures was directly on point, and that Brayton Purcell had satisfied the effects/purposeful direction test by making a prima facie showing that Recordon & Recordon willfully infringed Brayton Purcell’s copyrights and by alleging without dispute that Recordon & Recordon knew Brayton Purcell’s principal place of business was in the Northern District of California.

Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, — F.Supp.2d —, 2005 WL 639706 (March 18, 2005).

One thought on “Willful copyright infringement constitutes “purposeful direction” in personal jurisdiction analysis

  1. Jay

    Dear Mr. Brown:

    I have been looking for cases regarding venue and personal jurisdiction in copyright infringement cases, where possession by def. is acknowledged but due to jurisdiction and venue, the def. state prosecution cannot be be granted. I am on my way back to the law library, and would appreciate any cases that come to mind where the def. is located in one state and the pl. is located in another. Thanks for your time.

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