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Brayton Purcell LLP v. Recordon & Recordon, 575 F.3d 981, 91 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1737 (9th Cir. 2009) (full-text).
Factual Background Edit
Brayton Purcell LLP is a Novato, California law firm, which holds itself out as a specialist in elder abuse law, and which maintains a website providing related materials copyrighted October 7, 2002. Recordon & Recordon is a San-Diego-based law firm composed of two attorneys with a practice area limited to Southern California. In July 2004, Recordon hired a web-design company (principally located in Southern California) to add an elder abuse section to its website. Using "Copyscape," Brayton Purcell discovered that the elder abuse law section of Recordon's website consisted entirely of material from Purcell's website.
Trial Court Proceedings Edit
Brayton Purcell filed suit for copyright infringement, unfair competition, unfair advertising, and common law misappropriation in Novato, California, however subsequently dropped all claims except for copyright infringement. Recordon filed a motion seeking dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, dismissal for improper venue, or for change of venue. An arbitrator found for Brayton Purcell and the District Court entered judgment in its favor; Recordon only appealed the District Court’s denial of its motion to dismiss for improper venue.
Appellate Court Proceedings Edit
Although the burden is on the plaintiff to demonstrate that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant, in the absence of an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make “a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts to withstand the motion to dismiss.” In an action for copyright infringement, venue is proper “in the district in which the defendant or his agent resides or may be found.” This provision has been interpreted by the 9th Circuit to allow venue “in any jurisdictional district in which the defendant would be amenable to personal jurisdiction if the district were a separate state.”
The appellate Court affirmed the District Court’s decision based on a three-prong test determining that Recordon had sufficient minimum contacts to be subjected to personal jurisdiction in the forum. First, Recordon purposely availed itself of the benefits and protections of the forum. Recordon intentionally launched a website with copyrighted material on elder abuse law.
While a passive website is ordinarily not considered a targeted advertisement, the fact that Recordon’s site infringed on materials owned by a known resident of the forum Recordon’s infringement, and therefore website, was considered to be expressly aimed at Brayton Purcell and the forum. Brayton Purcell was one of the firms dealing with elder abuse and Recordon’s actions put it in direct competition for prospective clients in Southern California. Additionally, it was reasonably foreseeable that Recordon’s actions would lead to harm in the forum.
Because the other two prongs of the test, whether Brayton Purcell’s claim arose out of Recordon’s purposeful direction to the forum and whether the exercise of jurisdiction would offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice, were uncontroverted, Recordon was subject to personal jurisdiction in the Northern District of California.