June 8, 2017

A Cease and Desist Letter Alone Does not Establish Personal Jurisdiction

By Bryan K. Wheelock, Principal

In New World International, Inc. v. Ford Global Technologies, LLC, [2016-2097](June 8, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the dismissal of New World’s declaratory judgment complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction over Ford Global Technologies (FGTL).

FGTL sent New World a cease and desist letter accusing New World of infringing its design patents by selling various parts meant for use on Ford vehicles.  New World filed suit in the Northern District of Texas seeking a declaratory judgment of noninfringement and invalidity with regard to the design patents.  The district court found that FGTL’s cease and desist letters sent to New World in Texas were not sufficient to establish jurisdiction over FGTL.  The court further found that FGTL’s license agreement with third party LKQ did not provide the court with specific personal jurisdiction over FGTL in the declaratory judgment suit, and the court accordingly dismissed the complaint.

The Federal Circuit applied its three part test, which considers: (1) whether the defendant purposefully directed its activities at residents of the forum; (2) whether the claim arises out of or relates to the defendant’s activities with the forum; and (3) whether assertion of personal jurisdiction is reasonable and fair.  The Federal Circuit has acknowledged that the defendant purposefully directs his activities at residents of the forum when the defendant sends a cease and desist letter to a potential plaintiff in that particular forum.  And a subsequent declaratory judgment action by that potential plaintiff arises out of or relates to the defendant’s activity — namely, the cease and desist letter.  Under the third part of the test, however, this court has held that it is improper to predicate personal jurisdiction on the act of sending ordinary cease and desist letters into a forum, without more.

The Federal Circuit noted that while the act of sending cease and desist letters is insufficient by itself to trigger a finding of personal jurisdiction, other activities by the defendant, in conjunction with cease and desist letters, may be sufficient. However, the Federal Circuit found no other activities of FGTL sufficient to establish jurisdiction.