Dorothy Secol, CLA
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With the advent of the Internet, individuals or companies can operate international businesses from a desktop. All you need is the right equipment and knowledge. Internet contacts and/or transactions in "cyberspace" often cross jurisdictional lines. The parties can be located on opposite sides of the country or the world. Internet business operators, however, are still entitled to the protection of the due process clause of the United States Constitution that mandates that they be able to "structure their primary conduct with some minimum assurance as to where the conduct will and will not render them liable to suit." CompuServe, Inc. v. Patterson, 89 F.3d 1257, 1262 (6th Cir. 1996); Millennium Enterprises, Inc. v Millennium Music, LP, 33 F. Supp.2d 907, 914 (D. Or. 1999); Smith v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 968 F.Supp.1356, 1364 (W.D.Ark. 1997).

As the Internet constantly changes and expands it will continue to become a hotbed of litigation for any company that conducts business on-line or operates a web site where it can be required to defend a lawsuit.

The due process clause of the United States Constitution requires that a non-resident have purposely established sufficient contact with the state in which a lawsuit is brought so that requiring him to defend the suit in the state does not offend the "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 444 U.S. 462, 475-476 (1945). The non-resident must have "minimum contacts" with the state where the action is brought before the defendant can be subject to personal jurisdiction in that state.

Courts have focused most in suits involving the Internet on whether the defendant has "purposely availed" himself of the benefits of the state where suit is brought. Courts generally divide web sites into three categories; "passive" sites, general access sites which give general information to anyone who visits; "clearly" commercial sites, where a defendant may conduct business over the Internet with residents of the forum state; and "interactive" sites where users can exchange information with the site operators.

Operation of a commercial web site where the non-resident defendant conducts business with residents of, and has continuous contacts with, the forum state, will almost always allow the form state to exercise personal jurisdiction.

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