A recent case from the District of Connecticut provides important insight into personal jurisdiction analysis, and serves as a reminder that sometimes even modest connections to a state can render a company subject to suit in that state. Here, Judge Vanessa Bryant found that Connecticut could exercise personal jurisdiction over AMP Medical Products, a Nevada company that sold $450 worth of infringing products into Connecticut.
The case arose out of a trademark dispute between Young Pharmaceuticals and AMP, two companies that make and sell skincare products designed to be dispensed to patients by dermatologists. AMP itself had minimal contacts with Connecticut: it had never advertised in Connecticut; never attended a trade show there; has no bank accounts, offices, property, or registered agent in the state; has never before been sued there; and, although it has a website, it does not sell any products online, and therefore had never directly sold products to Connecticut residents using its website.
Nevertheless, it did have some Connecticut connections. To start, AMP products had been shipped into Connecticut on two occasions. As a result, AMP had made $450 in sales of infringing products in Connecticut – amounting to 6% of its total sales. Critically, however, AMP’s sole owner, Mr. Marchese, had closer ties to the state. Mr. Marchese owned another company that was headquartered in Connecticut; he also traveled regularly to the state, owned a home there, and could be reached at a Connecticut phone number.
Taken together, these facts were enough for Judge Bryant to find personal jurisdiction over AMP. As Judge Bryant noted, the Connecticut long-arm statute authorized jurisdiction over tortious acts committed within the state. Trademark infringement is a tort, and it is deemed to take place wherever a deceived customer might buy the defendant’s product. Because AMP’s products were sold to customers in Connecticut, then, the requirements of the long-arm statute were readily met. Judge Bryant found that AMP also had minimum contacts with Connecticut, in large part because of Mr. Marchese’s frequent travel to Connecticut and the sale of AMP products to Connecticut residents.
Exercising personal jurisdiction over Mr. Marchese also met the reasonableness test: Connecticut was, of course, the most convenient forum for Young Pharmaceuticals, and given Mr. Marchese’s connections to Connecticut, it was not unreasonable for Mr. Marchese to be asked to defend himself against suit there.
This case is an important reminder to all litigants, plaintiffs and defendants alike, of the importance of personal jurisdiction and the types of evidence needed to demonstrate that it exists. Here, extensive corporate contacts were not necessary to render a company amenable to suit in the forum – in part because of the ties that AMP’s sole owner and agent, Mr. Marchese, had in the state.
The case is Young Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Skinluma, LLC v. Peter Marchese and AMP Medical Products, LLC, No. 3:15-cv-516(VLB) (D. Conn.), before Judge Vanessa L. Bryant. A copy of the opinion can be found here.