A basis for US court “personal jurisdiction” in Internet related cases set forth in Zippo Manufacturing Co. v. Zippo Dot Com, Inc., 952 F. Supp. 1119 (W.D. Pa. 1997) which held that a court in a first US state or territory could exercise jurisdiction over a party in another state or territory over its operation of a website if the website was accessible in that first state. The Zippo case, as its name suggests, was a trademark case between Zippo Manufacturing and zippo.com.
In Zippo the court established a sliding scale for jurisdiction in Internet cases:
personal jurisdiction can be constitutionally exercised is directly proportionate to the nature and quality of commercial activity that an entity conducts over the Internet. This sliding scale is consistent with well developed personal jurisdiction principles.
- At one end of the spectrum are situations where a defendant clearly does business over the Internet. If the defendant enters into contracts with residents of a foreign jurisdiction that involve the knowing and repeated transmission of computer files over the Internet, personal jurisdiction is proper….
- At the opposite end are situations where a defendant has simply posted information on an Internet Web site which is accessible to users in foreign jurisdictions. A passive Web site that does little more than make information available to those who are interested in it is not grounds for the exercise personal jurisdiction…
- The middle ground is occupied by interactive Web sites where a user can exchange information with the host computer. In these cases, the exercise of jurisdiction is determined by examining the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the exchange of information that occurs on the Web site.*
The Zippo test has been adopted by multiple, but not all, US Federal Circuits.
*Bullets and paragraphing supplied and not in original opinion.