A Moron In A Hurry

June 14, 2006

Legal Liability of Drop-Down Menus

Filed under: internet, trademark — nick @ 2:01 pm

Just found a great site called Internet Cases run by Evan Brown. He reports on a recent decision on personal liability in trademark disputes.

The case, Qwest Comm. Int'l, Inc. v. Sonny Corp., (Slip Op.) 2006 WL 1319451 (W.D. Wash., May 15, 2006), read here, stands for the proposition that a "Select a State" drop-down menu on a purchase webpage constitutes purposeful availment for establishing personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant.

Internet Cases has a great rundown of the case. Basically, in order for Qwest to sue Sonny Corp., a Michigan business doing business online, in Washington state it has to show that Sonny directed activity towards the state of Washington in order to business there. It may seem odd to think that selling goods online could expose you to being sued in any state where your website is available, but generally, courts require something more than mere passive commercial activity (ie. just running a website). Sonny Corp. runs Questy.com, a site that sells "Qwesty's," stuffed question marks kids can use to signal preoccupied parents that they have a question that needs answering. Qwest's lawsuit claims, among other things, that Sonny's use of "Qwesty" diluted its trademark.

The court looked at this:

Qwesty.com order page
…and decided it was enough to say that Sonny Corp. directed its actions towards the state of Washington.

If the Qwesty site did not have a drop-down menu, if it required customers to enter their state into a field on their own, then it would probably have been off the hook. The decision, however, seems to require that website operators who use such drop-down menus either accept personal jurisdiction in all states or that they include in those menus only the states that they agree to be sued in. Both seem to be an excessive regulation over how websites are created.



  1. Thanks for the further analysis on this case. Keep up the good work with A Moron in a Hurry. Great name for a blog.

    Comment by Evan — June 20, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

  2. very nice blog!mary

    Comment by Blogs, news and more! — January 10, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

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