Imagine you are a foreign company selling a product in Brazil. Your company does not sell or distribute products in the United States (“US”). You learn of a trade show or convention relating to your products. It’s an international trade show or convention located at a site in the US. You decide to send a company representative to the US with a demo of your product.
Little did you know that now, you will be subjecting yourself to a lawsuit in the US. This is very close to the facts that led the Federal Circuit to find personal jurisdiction for Synthes (U.S.A) to sue GMReis. GMReis’ CEO and an employee attended international trade show of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) in San Diego and displayed five interlocking bone plates at a booth. At the trade show, GMReis was served with a complaint for patent infringement.
Synthes an assignee of a US patent directed at “a bone plating system and method for fracture fixation of bone” sued GMReis, a Brazilian company for patent infringement in the US. The Federal Circuit held that under FRCP 4 (k) (2), although the court did not have general jurisdiction over GMReis, there was sufficient contact for specific jurisdiction relating to patent infringement.
The court’s holding was based on the following activities by GMReis: 1) attending seven (7) trade shows in the US demonstrating its products; 2) selling one (1) product to a veterinary company in the US; 3) purchasing parts and a manufacturing machine for use in Brazil; 4) meeting with two American companies regarding purchase and development of non accused products; and 5) two inquiries by US entities regarding FDA approval of its interlocking bone plating products and potential clinical trials.
The Federal Circuit’s analysis of minimum contacts and whether or not it would be reasonable and fair to sue a foreign company in the US; opens the door to patent infringement claims against foreign entities. Only, time will tell how far this door will open, but it’s another tool for a patent holder to protect its interest.