SW Legal studies in Business

Missouri Court Has No Jurisdiction Over Operator of Non-Business Website in California
Description Court ordered that a suit for trademark infringement be transferred from Missouri to California. A Missouri company owns a trademark, Virtual Car, that a California resident used on a website, virtualcar.com. Since the website never transacted business, Missouri had no jurisdiction over the California resident.
Topic Cyberlaw
Key Words Jurisdiction; Domain Name; Trademark; Infringement
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a Missouri company, applied to the Trademark Office in June 1997 to register the trademark "Virtual Car." The application was granted in December 1998 and is used in the company's reservation service. Stowell, who owns a business in the U.S. and the U.K., registered the domain name virtualcar.com in October 1997. He intended to use the site, which was constructed, to be an automobile trading site, but trading was never started. In June 1999, Enterprise told Stowell that it owned the trademark and that since he was not using the domain name that he should transfer the name to them, for which they offered $500 for his expenses. Stowell contended that he registered the domain name first. In April, 2000, Stowell sold the domain name to a company in England. Enterprise sued for infringement in federal court in Missouri. Stowell defended that there was insufficient contact by his website for the court to have personal jurisdiction over him.

To determine if minimum contacts exist for personal jurisdiction, the court looks at 1) the nature and quality of contacts with the state; 2) the quantity of such contacts; and 3) the relation of the cause of action to the contacts. Lesser considerations are the interest of the forum state in providing a forum for its residents and the convenience of the parties. Here, Stowell did not have sufficient minimum contacts with Missouri for courts to exercise personal jurisdiction. The website displayed photos of cars, but did not engage in the purchase or sale of cars or exchange information with owners, so there was no direct economic activity with Missouri. The federal court in Missouri has no personal jurisdiction, but the federal court in California, where Stowell has one of his businesses, does, so the suit will be transferred to that court.

Citation Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. v. Stowell, 137 F.Supp.2d 1151 (E.D. Mo., 2001)

Back to Cyberlaw Listings

©1997-2002  SW Legal Studies in Business. All Rights Reserved.