If you bring an Internet-related lawsuit, where will the court hear the case?

Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China

This is not a simple matter and it won’t be adjudicated on the Internet. Personal jurisdiction is the power of a court over the parties in the case.  Before a court can exercise power over a party, the constitution requires that the party have certain minimum contacts with the forum in which the court sits. But what constitutes a minimum contact in the online world?

I was retained by an IP attorney to serve as a consulting expert. The case concerned an interview that his client gave to a website, which served as an endorsement of the manner in which the website supported the specifics of the client’s field. After the website changed their policy the client asked to be removed from the site. The owner of the website attempted to impose conditions that were unacceptable.

Because the website’s owner was out-of-state and the client was in Illinois the attorney wanted my help in establishing jurisdictional facts.

What has any of this got to do with Internet marketing? A lot.

There are a number of ways that a website can make money. Two that were apparent on the website in question were affiliate marketing and display advertising. There were two affiliate marketing ads on the front page which would pay the site a percentage of any sales resulting from clicks. There was one prominent video-based display ad in addition to the two affiliate ads.

As a result of my examination of the underlying code of this website we were able to establish a defensible basis for jurisdiction in Illinois. At least one of the affiliate marketing ads was for a business based in Illinois. A number of different advertisers’ display ads, including at least one of the aggregators of these ads, were based in Illinois. Incidentally, Google AdSense was one of the suppliers of these ads and Google has a large presence in Chicago. Furthermore, we were also able to establish that geo-targeting was being used. This is a critical part of establishing jurisdiction.

All of this research and investigation was necessary in order to make the argument that the case could rightfully be heard in Illinois. In order to be represented the website’s owner would need to retain a local attorney in the forum state.

This must have had an effect on the website owner.  When the papers were served, the owner unilaterally removed the offending materials from the website without any conditions.

This case was over before it started.

Contact us if you need help with a matter of personal jurisdiction or other matters requiring expertise in search engine optimization.


1 “Personal jurisdiction ­ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 21 Jun. 2016
2 “Personal Jurisdiction | Wex Legal Dictionary / Encyclopedia | LII …” 2015. 21 Jun. 2016
3 “Affiliate marketing ­ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 22 Jun. 2016
4 “Display advertising ­ Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2011. 22 Jun. 2016