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Unauthorized internet reseller of plaintiff’s products is not guilty of trademark infringement, and does not cause actionable initial interest confusion, by using plaintiff’s trademarks in meta tags of website at which plaintiff’s and its competitors’ products are sold, and in...

Oxford Round Table Inc. v. Sloan Mahone

Civil Act. No. 3:07CV-330-H (W.D. Ken., November 7, 2007)

Kentucky District Court holds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over an English resident in a defamation action brought against her by a Kentucky corporation arising out of defendant’s posting of allegedly defamatory statements on an website, and transmission of allegedly defamatory emails from England to recipients in England and Illinois.

Plaintiff Oxford Round Table Inc.  (“ORT”) is a Kentucky corporation which conducts educational conferences at the University of Oxford in England.  Defendant Sloan Mahone (“Mahone”) is an academic lecturer affiliated with Oxford University.  Apparently dissatisfied with ORT, defendant made a series of posts on a website maintained by the Chronicle of Higher Education that were critical of ORT.  Defendant also sent emails critical of plaintiff to an individual affiliated with Oxford in England, and another to an individual apparently in Illinois.  Defendant had never been to Kentucky, and had never done business there.

Claiming these posts and emails were defamatory, ORT commenced suit in Kentucky.  Mahone moved to dismiss on the grounds that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over her.  The Court agreed, and dismissed plaintiff’s complaint for want of jurisdiction.  The Court rested its holding on its determination that defendant did not ‘purposefully avail’ herself of the privilege of acting within the state.  The Court reached this result notwithstanding the fact that defendant’s posts may have caused injury to plaintiff in Kentucky.

Said the Court:

In our case, it is very difficult to say that Mahone purposefully availed herself of the privilege of acting within the state.  Certainly, none of her activities took place here.  Although Mahone’s activities certainly may have harmed a corporate resident of Kentucky, the activities themselves were directed toward others primarily rather than ORT.

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