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Beyond simply operating an interactive website that is accessible from the forum state, a defendant must in some way target the forum state's market. If the defendant merely operates a website, even a highly interactive website, that is accessible from, but does not target, the forum state, then the defendant may not be haled into court in that state without offending the U.S. Constitution.
Plaintiff be2 LLC is a Delaware limited liability company that is also headquartered in that state. Its parent company, be2 Holding, A.G., is organized and headquartered in Germany. These companies, which we collectively call be2 Holding, run an Internet dating website located at be2.com. Plaintiff be2 Holding originally offered its dating service only to singles in Europe. Over the past few years, be2 Holding has extended its reach to 14 million users in 36 countries, including the United States. The complaint asserts claims arising under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1114(1), 1125(a), federal common law, and the Illinois Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act, 815 ILCS 510/1 to /7. The complaint names Nikolay Ivanov, a resident of New Jersey, as a defendant. Allegedly he is the co-founder and CEO of be2.net and also the person "responsible for the majority of business transactions" on the website. the district court found that Ivanov was not credible. The court denied the motion to vacate the judgment. The court relied on what it described as "the whole list of Chicago contacts, the result of Mr. Ivanov's activity," and concluded that "the idea of the absence of effective Illinois contacts sufficient to support in personam jurisdiction is undercut dramatically." As for the argument that Ivanov was merely a volunteer, the district court pointed to his Internet boasting that he was co-founder and CEO of be2.net. And the district court resoundingly rejected Ivanov's "Centralized Expert Operator" explanation for describing himself as "CEO." Appearing pro se again on appeal, Ivanov renewed his argument that he is not subject to personal jurisdiction in Illinois.
Did Ivanov’s Internet activity make him susceptible to personal jurisdiction in Illinois for claims arising from that activity?
The court concluded that on the record, the U.S. Constitution forbade an Illinois court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Ivanov. Plaintiff relied on a theory of specific jurisdiction based on alleged effects on it in Illinois. All that plaintiff submitted regarding defendant's activity in Illinois was the Internet printout showing that just 20 persons who listed Illinois addresses had at some point created free dating profiles on defendant's website. The constitutional requirement of minimum contacts was not satisfied simply because a few residents had registered accounts on defendant's website. There was no evidence that Ivanov targeted or exploited the market in the state that would allow a conclusion that he availed himself of the privilege of doing business in the state.