Judge Robinson Finds Personal Jurisdiction over Washington Company but Grants Motion to Transfer Due to Undue Burden

May 12, 2016

Publication| Intellectual Property

In Segway, Inc. v. Inventist, Inc., C.A. No. 15-808-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 25, 2016), Judge Robinson denied a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction filed by the defendant, Inventist, Inc. (“Inventist”), a Washington corporation, but granted Inventist’s motion to transfer.

In concluding that the Court could exercise personal jurisdiction over Inventist, the Court highlighted that Inventist maintained “an interactive, commercial website store that is accessible to the general public and through which the general public (including Delaware residents) can purchase the accused products.” Through this website, at least three products were purchased by and shipped to Delaware residents. The defendant also directed its sales, advertising, and promotional efforts to a national audience. Under these facts, Judge Robinson found that Inventist’s actions placed it within the reach of Delaware’s long-arm statute (by conducting business within the state) and that exercising personal jurisdiction over Inventist comported with due process (because the defendant placed its products in the stream of commerce and should reasonably anticipate finding itself in a court in Delaware).

Despite finding personal jurisdiction, Judge Robinson concluded that litigating the action in Delaware would impose undue burdens on Inventist. Although Inventist had “global aspirations,” the Court found that “those aspirations are more reflected in its promotional materials than its physical or fiscal presence in Delaware.” Inventist’s size (six full-time and three part-time employees) and location (all staff and records in Washington) supported this finding. Judge Robinson acknowledged the plaintiff’s “privilege of initiating its litigation in the forum it chooses” and that Delaware was an appropriate and neutral forum for this case, but held that litigating in Delaware would impose undue burdens on Inventist and ordered that the case be transferred to Washington.

Analysis: Even if personal jurisdiction is proper over defendants, plaintiffs could be forced out of their chosen forum of Delaware if the defendant proves that litigating in Delaware would impose unreasonable burdens. With regard to the difference in outcome between this and the Scientific Telecommunications LLC decision discussed herein, it is worth noting that the defendant was not incorporated in Delaware.

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