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Presby Patent Trust v. Infiltrator Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

June 3, 2015

Presby Patent Trust
Infiltrator Systems, Inc. Opinion No. 2015 DNH 111


JOSEPH N. LaPLANTE, District Judge.

This case involves personal jurisdiction in the area of patent infringement, and specifically whether this court has either general or personal jurisdiction over defendant Infiltrator Systems, Inc. The plaintiff in this action, Presby Patent Trust, alleges that Infiltrator directly and indirectly infringes one or more claims of U.S. Patent No. 8, 815, 094. The '094 patent issued on August 26, 2014, and claims a method of processing effluent, such as in a septic system. Presby alleges that Infiltrator directly infringes the '094 patent by making, using, importing, selling, and/or offering to sell Infiltrator's Advanced Treatment Leachfield ("ATL") in-ground septic system, and indirectly infringes the '094 patent by inducing others to do so and by contributing to the infringement of the '094 patent by others. This court has subject-matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1331 (federal question) and 1338(a) (patents).

Infiltrator, which is incorporated and has its principal place of business in Connecticut, moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. See Fed. R. Civ. P.12(b)(2), (3). After oral argument, the court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss. Infiltrator's contacts with New Hampshire are insufficient for this court to exercise personal jurisdiction over it in this action.

I. Applicable Legal Standard

"Personal jurisdiction implicates the power of a court over a defendant.... [B]oth its source and its outer limits are defined exclusively by the Constitution, " namely, the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Foster-Miller, Inc. v. Babcock & Wilcox Can., 46 F.3d 138, 143-44 (1st Cir. 1995) (citing Ins. Corp. of Ir., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)); U.S. Const. Am. XIV. Whether a district court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant is a two-step inquiry: first, the long-arm statute of the forum state must provide for jurisdiction over the defendant and second, if it does, the court's exercise of that jurisdiction must comport with due process.[1] Grober v. Mako Prods. Inc., 686 F.3d 1335, 1345 (Fed. Cir. 2012). Where, as here, the applicable long-arm statute and federal due process limitations are coextensive, "the state limitation collapses into the due process requirement" and the two inquiries "coalesce into one." Trintec Indus., Inc. v. Pedre Promotional Prods., Inc., 395 F.3d 1275, 1279 (Fed. Cir. 2005); see also Phillips Exeter Acad. v. Howard Phillips Fund, 196 F.3d 284, 287 (1st Cir. 1999) ("New Hampshire's long-arm statute reaches to the full extent that the Constitution allows.").

Due process requires that a defendant must have sufficient "minimum contacts" with the forum in question "such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (internal quotations omitted). Consistent with the requirements of due process, a court may exercise one of two categories of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. General jurisdiction exists when "the corporation's affiliations with the State in which suit is brought are so constant and pervasive as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State.'" Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 751 (2014) (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2851 (2011)). Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, "is confined to adjudication of issues deriving from, or connected with, the very controversy that establishes jurisdiction." Goodyear, 131 S.Ct. at 2851 (internal quotations omitted). Infiltrator argues that this court may exercise neither specific nor general jurisdiction in this case.

Presby bears the burden of showing that Infiltrator has sufficient "minimum contacts" with New Hampshire to satisfy the requirements of due process. Where, as here, "the district court's disposition of the personal jurisdictional question is based on affidavits and other written materials in the absence of an evidentiary hearing, a plaintiff need only to make a prima facie showing that defendants are subject to personal jurisdiction." Elecs. for Imaging, Inc. v. Coyle, 340 F.3d 1344, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2003). The plaintiff is not limited to its allegations in the complaint and may make this showing through affidavits attached to its opposition.[2] In determining whether a plaintiff has made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction, the court "accept[s] the uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint as true and resolve[s] any factual conflicts in the affidavits in the plaintiff's favor." Id.

II. Background

The relevant facts, construed in the light most favorable to Presby, are as follows. Infiltrator makes and sells septic systems, including the ATL system that Presby accuses of infringing the '094 patent. Though incorporated and with its principal place of business in Connecticut-where its president maintains an office-Infiltrator is present in New Hampshire. It sells septic systems in New Hampshire through its New Hampshire-based sales representative, resellers, and distributors; obtains approvals for its septic systems to be installed in New Hampshire through the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services; provides New Hampshire-specific installation instructions to its customers; exhibits its products at trade shows in New Hampshire; hosts educational seminars about its septic systems in New Hampshire; and is an "affiliate member" of a New Hampshire-based trade association.

Despite Infiltrator's several contacts with the state, at oral argument, Presby conceded that Infiltrator had neither marketed nor sold the accused ATL System in New Hampshire at the time Presby filed its complaint, and that Infiltrator only sells non-infringing systems in New Hampshire at this time. Nor has Infiltrator appointed an agent for service of process in New Hampshire.

III. Analysis

A. Specific Jurisdiction

Whether a district court has specific jurisdiction over a defendant in a patent case "entails a three-part test: (1) whether the defendant purposefully directs activities at the forum's residents; (2) whether the claim arises out of or relates to those activities; and (3) whether assertion of personal jurisdiction is reasonable and fair." AFT-TG, LLC v. Nuvoton Tech. Corp., 689 F.3d 1358, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (citing Nuance Commc'ns, Inc. v. Abbyy Software House, 626 F.3d 1222, 1231 (Fed. Cir. 2010)). Because Presby has not shown that the claims it asserts in this action "arise[] out of or relate[] to" activities that Infiltrator purposefully directs to New Hampshire, the court does not have specific jurisdiction over Infiltrator.

The parties conceded at oral argument, and the court agrees, that Infiltrator satisfies the first part of the test. Among other activities, as described supra, Infiltrator employs a sales representative in New Hampshire and sells septic systems into the state (both directly and through distributors). There is no question that Infiltrator purposefully directs these activities at residents of New Hampshire. The operative question for specific jurisdiction in this case, ...

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