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VP Intellectual Properties, LLC v. Imtec Corp.

December 10, 1999

VP INTELLECTUAL PROPERTIES, LLC
PLAINTIFF,
V.
IMTEC CORPORATION, ET AL.
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William H. Walls, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

Walls, District Judge

Defendant Imtec Corporation ("Imtec") moves to dismiss plaintiff VP Intellectual Properties' ("VP") complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. In the alternative, Imtec requests severance and the transfer of this case to the District of Oklahoma. Imtec's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and improper venue is granted in part; its request to sever is placed before the magistrate judge for consideration.

FACTS

Defendant Imtec is an Oklahoma corporation with its principal place of business in Ardmore, Oklahoma. VP is a limited liability company with its headquarters at Fort Lee, New Jersey. VP filed the present complaint against four defendants, including Imtec, for patent infringement. VP claims that Imtec sold a number of dental implant devices, including "threaded" implants, "angled abutment" implants, and "push-in" implants, which infringed various patents held by VP.

Imtec moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. As evidence that jurisdiction is absent, Imtec states that: (1) it does not have a "regular and established" place of business in New Jersey; (2) it does not have an office or any employees in the state; (3) it has no authorized dealers, manufacturers or distributors in the state; (4) it has no sales agents, salesperson, wholesaler, broker or other type of sales representative in the state; (5) between 1994 and August 1999, it never attended a trade show or other conference in the state; and (6) it has never maintained a New Jersey telephone listing. Def. Brf. at 3. It asserts that the only link it has to the state are "minimal" sales of the threaded and angled abutment implants to New Jersey dentists. Imtec argues that these unsolicited, isolated sales, typically for less than $400, are insufficient to grant either general or specific personal jurisdiction.

VP responds that Imtec's repeated sales to New Jersey dentists, combined with Imtec's commercial Internet site which can be accessed from the state, constitute "continuous, substantial and systematic" contacts with the forum that give rise to general personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff adds that Imtec's actual sales of allegedly infringing products in the forum state are also sufficient to grant this Court specific jurisdiction over Counts I, II, & IV. As for the "push-in" implants, which were never sold in-state, VP argues that Imtec has sent at least one catalog advertising this product to New Jersey. Plaintiff asserts that this offer to sell an allegedly infringing product in the forum state gives the Court specific jurisdiction over this type of implant (Count III).

LEGAL DISCUSSION

Personal Jurisdiction.

If a defendant challenges an action for lack of personal jurisdiction, the burden is on the plaintiff to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction. Carteret Savings Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 1992). Moreover, the plaintiff must sustain its burden of proof "through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence," and not on bare pleadings alone. Time Share Vacation Club v. Atlantic Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 67 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984). The plaintiff must show that this Court can maintain jurisdiction over the defendant consistent with due process. DeJames v. Magnificence Carriers, Inc., 654 F.2d 280, 284 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1085 (1981). In deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Court must construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff and accept them as true. Shushan, 954 F.2d at 142.

A federal court assessing whether jurisdiction may be exercised over a defendant must look to the long-arm statute of the state in which it sits. Fed. R. Civ. P. 4; Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, National Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992). Rule 4:4-4 of the New Jersey Court Rules grants jurisdiction to the courts of this state "to the uttermost limits permitted by the United States Constitution," Avdel Corp. v. Mecure, 58 N.J. 264, 268 (1971), "limited only by the due process constraints of the Fourteenth Amendment." DeJames, 654 F.2d at 284.

In New Jersey, to subject a nonresident party to personal jurisdiction, due process requires that party "have certain minimum contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945). In this regard, the plaintiff must demonstrate "with reasonable particularity" that the Court has either specific jurisdiction, where the cause of action arises from or relates to the defendant's activities in the forum state, or general jurisdiction, where the defendant has continuous and systematic conduct in the forum state. Dollar Savings Bank v. First Security Bank of Utah, 746 F.2d 208, 211 (3d Cir. 1984); Giangola v. Walt Disney World Co., 753 F. Supp. 148, 154 (D.N.J. 1990).

Once a court has found that a defendant's contacts with the forum state are sufficiently significant to confer jurisdiction to the forum, "in appropriate cases" the court may evaluate other facts. Burger King, 471 U.S. 462, 476-77 (1985). These factors include "the burden on the defendant, the forum State's interest in adjudicating the dispute, the plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief, the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies, and the shared interest of the several States in furthering fundamental substantive social policies." Id. General Jurisdiction

As said, to assert general jurisdiction, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's contacts with the forum are so "continuous and substantial" that the defendant should "expect to be haled into court on any cause of action." See Weber v. Jolly Hotels, 977 F. Supp. 327 (D.N.J. 1997) (citing Helicopteros Nationales de Columbia S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408 (1984)). Here, the issue is whether the sale of approximately $9,500 in dental implants to New ...


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