No dog-gone jurisdiction over New Jersey resident

Paws With a Cause, Inc., a Michigan non-profit corporation, sued Paws For a Cause, LLC, a New Jersey entity, for trademark infringement in federal court in Michigan. Plaintiff operates the website pawswithacause.com, while defendant operates pawsforacause.com. The defendant moved to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2), citing a lack of personal jurisdiction.

The defendant explained that it had “never ever conducted business of any type with anyone from the State of Michigan.” The plaintiff, however, claimed that it suffered a tortious injury in Michigan from the defendant’s operation of the website with a confusingly similar domain name. The plaintiff also argued that the defendant had caused injury in Michigan by maintaining an unauthorized link from its website to the plaintiff’s website. Finally, the plaintiff argued that it suffered injury resulting from the defendant’s “telephonic threat to pursue a criminal investigation unless plaintiff withdrew its complaint.”

The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments. It held that even if the potential confusion caused by the similarities in the parties’ names caused some sort of tortious injury in Michigan, the defendant’s contacts with Michigan were too attenuated to satisfy due process. As for the threat of criminal prosecution, the court noted that although it lacked diplomacy, it “was not totally unjustified.” In any event, the threat couldn’t give rise to personal jurisdiction, as the plaintiff’s claims did not arise from the communication.

Paws With a Cause, Inc. v. Paws For a Cause, LLC, 2005 WL 1118114 (W.D.Mich., May 11, 2005).