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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...

Denise McVea v. James Crisp

Civil Act. No. SA-07-CA-353-XR (W.D. Texas, November 5, 2007)

Federal Court sitting in Texas holds that it can exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant arising out of posts made on the internet site which allegedly defamed and injured plaintiff, a Texas resident.  Because the posts concerned a party who defendant likely knew resided in Texas, and addressed a subject of Texas history, the Court, applying the Calder effects test, held that a Texas court could exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant because he likely knew the brunt of the harm caused by these posts would be felt there.  Said the Court:

The Court finds the requisite factors are present to invoke jurisdiction based on the overall content and aim of the website, which is to provide information of interest about Texas, and the knowledge that harm inflicted by the allegedly defamatory statements would be felt in Texas.

The assertion of personal jurisdiction over defendant in such circumstances was fair, within the parameters of the 14th Amendment, because ‘if you are going to pick a fight in Texas, it is reasonable to expect that it be settled there.’

The Court accordingly denied defendant’s motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.

The Court did grant defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s defamation claim for failure to state a claim.  Given that the Court did not, in its opinion, recite the allegedly defamatory statements, its opinion on this branch of the motion to dismiss is of limited value to the legal community.  The dispute apparently focused on a disagreement between the parties – both historians - over the existence of an historical Texas figure.  The Court held that the statements at issue, when read in the context of the posts and circumstances in which they were made, were not reasonably capable of a defamatory meaning, and were constitutionally protected statements of opinion.

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