Global Defense

How Interactive?

Miami attorney Jose I. Rojas, a specialist in technology law and intellectual property, of law firm Broad and Cassel, notes that most courts considering these cases have ruled that setting up a merely passive Web site does not subject a company to jurisdiction in a foreign court any more than taking out a national print advertisement. However, the more interactive the site, the more likely a court would rule that your company is actually doing business in that state. For instance, if the customer can make purchases by credit card directly from the Web site, that would most likely count as commerce in the customer's state. The gray area includes partially interactive sites, where, for instance, a customer could click on a button and fill out an on-screen form to request further information.

In one case involving a minimally interactive site, an Arizona company named Cybersell Inc. sued a Florida company named CyberSell Inc. after the Florida company established a Web site. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Florida company was not liable for trademark infringement under Arizona law just because its Web site could be accessed by citizens in Arizona, as it could by anyone else in the world. The only interactive feature was an invitation for browsers to introduce themselves by sending an e-mail message, which wasn't enough to indicate an intent to do business in Arizona. The case was dismissed.

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This article was originally published in the December 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Global Defense.

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