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Designer Skin LLC v. S & L Vitamins, Inc., et al.
Unauthorized internet reseller of plaintiff’s products is not guilty of trademark infringement, and does not cause actionable initial interest confusion, by using plaintiff’s trademarks in meta tags of website at which plaintiff’s and its competitors’ products are sold, and in...

Northwest Healthcare Alliance Inc. v., Inc.,

No. 01-35648 (9th Cir., October 7, 2002).

Applying the ‘effects test,’ the Ninth Circuit holds that Washington courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over defendant, a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Colorado, in a defamation action arising out of allegedly defamatory statements found on defendant’s website that caused injury to plaintiff in Washington.  The statements at issue consisted of ratings of home health care providers, including plaintiff, which provides such services in Washington.

Under the ‘effects test’ endorsed by the Supreme Court in Calder v. Jones, 456 U.S. 783 (1984), the Ninth Circuit held that personal jurisdiction can be exercised over an out of state defendant if it “(1) engaged in intentional actions; (2) expressly aimed at the forum state; (3) causing harm, the brunt of which is suffered – and which defendant knows is likely to be suffered – in the forum state.”

Application of the effects test to the case at bar mandated denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction.  Said the Court:

We find that defendant has purposefully interjected itself into the Washington state home health care market through its intentional act of offering ratings of Washington medical service providers.  This act was expressly aimed at plaintiff’s forum state, since defendant was well aware that its rating of Washington home health care providers would be of value primarily to Washington consumers. … the allegedly defamatory rating received by plaintiff on defendant’s website concerned the Washington activities of a Washington resident.  Finally, the brunt of the harm allegedly suffered by plaintiff occurred in Washington – where plaintiff is incorporated, where plaintiff has its principal place of business, and where plaintiff’s reputation is likely to suffer if in fact it has been injured by defendant’s actions.  The effects, therefore, of defendant’s out-of-state conduct were felt in Washington.  Plaintiff’s claims arise from that out of state conduct, and defendant could reasonably expect to be called to account for its conduct in the forum where it understood the effects of its action would be felt.

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