Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago, LLC v. Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex, P.A., 623 F.3d 440, 96 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1921 (7th Cir. 2010) (full-text).
Plaintiff Mobile Anesthesiologists Chicago (Mobile/Chicago) and Defendant Anesthesia Associates of Houston Metroplex (Mobile/Houston) provide anesthesia services in Chicago and Houston, respectively. Mobile/Chicago has been operating in the Chicago area since 1996, and has affiliated offices in other cities, including Houston. Mobile/Chicago’s complaint alleges operations in Houston as early as 2008. Mobile/Chicago registered its website in 2007 and owns a federally registered trademark for MOBILE ANESTHESIOLOGISTS, registered in 2005. Mobile/Houston was established in 2007 and advertises, and performs services, solely in Houston. Mobile/Houston registered a website in 2008, which, at the time this case was filed, consisted of little more than a description of services and a Houston contact number. Mobile/Chicago brought this action against Mobile/Houston for alleged violations of the federal anti-cybersquatting statute for the registration of a domain name similar to Mobile/Chicago’s trademark.
Trial Court Proceedings
Mobile/Chicago filed this lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois and requested a preliminary injunction to stop Mobile/Houston’s continued use of its domain name. Mobile/Houston’s counsel filed a motion to continue the preliminary injunction hearing because Mobile/Houston’s owner was scheduled to see patients, and also requested expedited discovery to prepare for the hearing. Mobile/Chicago argued that these actions by Mobile/Houston constituted a waiver of any argument for lack of personal jurisdiction. Despite Mobile/Chicago’s argument, to waive a personal jurisdiction defense, a defendant “must give a plaintiff a reasonable expectation that it will defend the suit on the merits or must cause the court to go to some effort that would be wasted if personal jurisdiction is later found lacking.” The court held that the Defendant had not waived its 12(b)(3) defense by merely requesting more time to produce its key witness at the hearing or by seeking initial discovery.
Once the court held that the defendant had not waived its right to bring an argument for lack of personal jurisdiction, the court took note of the facts that Mobile/Houston’s sole proprietor had never visited Illinois for professional reasons, visiting only once on vacation, that Mobile/Houston’s advertisements were directed solely at the state of Texas, and that Mobile/Houston was unaware of Mobile/Chicago’s website or trademark. A defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in a forum state if the defendant has minimum contacts with that state and if the exercise of jurisdiction does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Mobile/Chicago’s complaint alleges that Mobile/Houston’s contacts with Illinois justify specific jurisdiction. Because Mobile/Houston did not direct its actions at Illinois or solicit customers from the state, and because it had no physical locations outside of Texas, Mobile/Chicago relied on (1) Mobile/Houston’s website, which was registered with a domain name similar to Mobile/Chicago’s trademark after receiving constructive notice due to the federal registration, and (2) Mobile/Houston’s continued use of the domain name following actual notice in the form of a cease and desist letter and the present lawsuit. Ultimately the court found this argument unpersuasive.
While the Supreme Court has held that sufficient minimum contacts can be imputed to a defendant if the defendant is accused of committing an intentional tort with acts “expressly aimed” at the forum state, this approach is merely one means of satisfying the traditional due process standard of International Shoe, “not an independent path to jurisdiction that allow[s] a plaintiff to avoid ‘minimum contacts’ altogether.” Even though the defendant’s website was accessible in Illinois, as well as any other state, there was nothing about the website itself, or any of the defendant’s other actions, that sought to target Illinois or its residents. Similarly, the fact that Mobile/Houston later received actual notice of Mobile/Chicago’s website and trademark, does nothing to alter whether or not Mobile/Houston was availing itself of the benefits and protections of the forum state.
The court ruled that Mobile/Chicago lacked sufficient evidence to establish personal jurisdiction over Mobile/Houston in Illinois. While a website can be one means of systematically conducting business within, and contacting the residents of, a forum state, there was nothing in the record to establish these types of activities by Mobile/Houston.
- American Patriot Ins. Agency v. Mutual Risk Management, Ltd., 364 F.3d 884, 887-88 (7th Cir. 2004) (full-text).
- International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (full-text).
- Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 789-90 (1984) (full-text).
- Wallace v. Herron, 778 F.2d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1985) (full-text).