Tuesday, March 20, 2012

If you sell airplane parts in South Carolina to a customer who advertises and flies in Florida, are you subjected to personal jurisdiction in Florida for patent infringement?


William Fondriest sued Chippewa Aerospace and Icore International for infringement of U.S. Pat. No. 7,135,790 related to jet aircraft landing gear.  Icore was dismissed earlier with the Plaintiff's consent.  

Plaintiff alleged both general jurisdiction and specific jurisdiction.  As to general jurisdiction, which requires "continuous and systematic general business contacts between the defendant and the forum state," Plaintiff relied on Chippewa's long standing and ongoing relationships with multiple companies that maintain significant operations in Florida.  Chippewa's customers's significant connections to Florida did not carry over to justify suing Chippewa here:
The fact that Chippewa allegedly provides Harness Products to airlines that advertise in Florida and fly throughout Florida does not demonstrate the continuous and systematic contacts that warrant the exercise of jurisdiction over Chippewa.
Plaintiff next tried specific jurisdiction, which involves a three-prong test: (1) defendant purposefully directed its activities at the residents of Florida; (2) the claim arises out of or is related to those activities; and (3) asserting personal jurisdiction is reasonable and fair.  Plaintiff argued that the regional airlines Chippewa sells to use Chippewa's allegedly infringing product in flights to and from Florida (and thus commit infringement in Florida). Chippewa responded that it manufactures the products in South Carolina, has never sold one in Florida or to a customer in Florida, has never received any payment from anyone in Florida, and has never delivered the allegedly infringing product to Florida.  Instead, Chippewa has sold the product to a customer in North Carolina and another in Utah and those sold to the North Carolina entity were installed on landing gear for companies in Wisconsin and Canada.
There is no evidence before this court to indicate that Chippewa purposefully directed its activities at residents of Florida.  Thus, Plaintiff's claim does not arise out of tor relate to activities that Chippewa purposefully directed at residents of Florida.  Assertion of personal jurisdiction over Chippewa would be unreasonable and unfair, as there are no contacts between Chippewa and Florida that give rise to the claims asserted by Plaintiff in this case.
Motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction granted.

Fondriest v. Chippewa Aerospace, Inc., Case No. 6:11-cv-1206 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 16, 2012) (J. Honeywell)

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