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The first step in a court's relatedness analysis is to decide on the proper standard. Three approaches predominate. At the most restrictive end of the spectrum, courts require the defendant's contacts to have been the "proximate cause"—or at least something similar to the proximate cause—of the plaintiff's alleged injury. Other courts are satisfied if the contacts are merely a "but-for cause" of the injury. And a third category of courts, including, notably, the D.C. Court of Appeals, require only a "discernable relationship" between the contacts and the plaintiff's cause of action. Unlike the other tests, the "discernable relationship" test does not require a causal connection between the defendant's activities and the plaintiffs' lawsuit. Instead, courts that follow this approach consider the totality of the circumstances, and from that attempt to infer whether the exercise of jurisdiction in the forum was "reasonably foreseeable."
Defendant is Youku Tudou Inc. ("Youku"), a Chinese internet television company. Plaintiff is Triple Up Limited ("Triple Up"), a Seychelles corporation. The suit concerns the performance rights to three Taiwanese movies, which were allegedly viewable on Youku's websites from within the United States. Beyond the websites' mere accessibility, however, neither Youku, Triple Up, nor the contested works bears any case-relevant connections to the United States.
Was Youku's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction meritorious?
The court held that there was no evidence that the presence of any ads for American products played any role in making the allegedly infringing videos viewable on Youku’s websites from within the United States. Although the feature of Youku’s websites that allowed users to "upload videos" may be interactive in some sense, neither party argued that this feature was in any way relevant to the specific jurisdiction inquiry. The claims at issue had no "discernable relationship"—causal or otherwise—to Youku’s stock listings, and therefore did not "arise from or relate to" that contact with the United States. There was no allegation that anyone other than Triple Up’s attorneys viewed the three films from within the United States at all.