Who knew issues of personal jurisdiction could be so emotional. Late last year, the District Court for the Central District of California ruling on the matter in JIbJab Media v. White Castle Managment, 2012 WL 6916586, issued an opinion on whether White Castle Management Co., makers of the famous White Castle burger, could be hauled into California Court for a Facebook social media campaign, aimed at consumers in the Midwest and New York. Apparently the campaign was visible to all Facebook viewers; however, Californians viewing the campaign would have to drive at least 1000 miles for the crispy chicken rings that White Castle was trying to sell.
Plaintiff in the case, JibJab, the social media group that gained prominence with their 2004 Presidential Campaing parodies, argued that White Castle’s social media campaign, which centers on its Jib Jab Chicken Ring, is a violation of trademark infringement. According to Jib Jab, whose main offices are in Santa Monica, Cal., White Castle, used the name and a logo-like picture to accompany the virtues of what the company itself termed the “#7 grossest fast food in the country.”
But getting back to the jurisdictional issue… Jib Jab maintained that the California Court should ascertain specific jurisdiction over WC Management, the holding company of White Castle, because the company “expressly aimed” a brief social media campaign at the California Market. “Express aiming” is met when “the defendant is alleged to have engaged in wrongful conduct targeted at a plaintiff whom the defendant knows to be a resident of the forum state.” The Court’s ruling suggests that judge hearing the case was clearly appalled at the chutzpah like suggestion of Jib Jab, calling the claim astonishing because the promotion at issue pertained to the promotion of a single food item, Chicken Rings, that was offered and served only at restaurants located in the Midwestern United States and New York City metropolitan area.
The lesson to be learned here; submission to a particular forum does not attach to every Tweet, Post or YouTube video.