Tall Tale

Submitted by patentadmin on Fri, 05/20/2011 - 14:19

As a general rule, lying under oath is not a good idea. However, if you simply must lie, try to make it plausible. (be2 LLC v. Ivanov).

be2, the operator of dating website be2.com, sued Ivanov, in Illinois, alleging that he was the CEO of a Bulgarian dating website that used the “confusingly similar” web address be2.net.

Neither Ivanov, nor any other Bulgarian, responded to the suit and, in due course, be2 (the American dating website) was awarded a default judgment against Ivanov and be2 (the Bulgarian dating website).

Some time thereafter, Ivanov awoke from his slumber, filed an appearance, and moved to have the judgment vacated on the grounds that the Illinois court lacked jurisdiction as be2 (the Bulgarian dating website) did not do business in Illinois.

In a hearing on the question of jurisdiction, Ivanov, a New Jersey resident, claimed to be a mere unpaid volunteer who assisted be2 (the Bulgarian dating website) “because he was proud to be of service to a company from his native land.” Confronted with printed material from be2 (the Bulgarian dating website) identifying him as the “CEO,” responsible for “censorship, profile approval, design and advertising,” he boldly averred that “CEO” stood only for “Centralized Expert Operator.” The trial court held this testimony was “not credible” – no surprise there – and denied the motion to vacate. Chastised, but undaunted, Ivanov appealed.

The appellate court held that the district court had had “ample grounds for discounting” Ivanov’s credibility, characterizing his testimony as “preposterous.” Nevertheless, the appellate court went on, “[t]he Due Process Clause is satisfied only if Ivanov has minimum contacts with Illinois such that requiring him to defend against this lawsuit in the state ‘does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice’.” The issue, as framed by the appellate court, was whether Ivanov had “purposely exploited” the Illinois market.

Here, Ivanov lucked out. “If the defendant merely operates a website, even a ‘highly interactive website, that is accessible from, but does not target, the forum state, then the defendant may not be haled into court in that state without offending the Constitution.” The default judgment was vacated.

As it turned out, only 10 men and 10 women from the State of Illinois had registered with be2 (the Bulgarian dating website). The record failed to disclose whether this was some sort of reflection on the perceived attractiveness – or lack thereof – of Bulgarians.

And what of be2 (the Bulgarian dating website)? Visitors to its website are now redirected to the British website of be2 (the American dating service).

The Lesson To Be Learned – Ivanov and the Bulgarians were lucky; lying in court is still a bad idea.

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