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Dating Service Did Not Target Illinois

To maintain a lawsuit in Illinois federal court against an Internet date matching service website, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the website targeted residents in Illinois.  As a result, the Seventh Circuit appellate court dismissed a case because plaintiff failed to show that defendant targeted Illinois.

be2 LLC and be2 Holding filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in Illinois against Nikolay Ivanov arguing that his use of the domain be2.net was “confusingly similar” to be2.com “with the intention of misleading consumers.”  Both sites provide date matching services.  Defendant Ivanov did not appear and be2 Holding obtained a default judgment.

After judgment was entered, Mr. Ivanov, a resident of New Jersey, appeared to contest the court’s jurisdiction over him.  He submitted an affidavit claiming that when the website identified him as “CEO” of the company, it meant “Centralized Expert Operator,” that his task was merely to translate the site from Bulgarian to English, and that his work on the website was a “hobby.”  The appellate court notes that “with ample reason, the district court found that Ivanov was not credible.”

Nonetheless, the Seventh Circuit dismissed the case against Ivanov in Illinois because be2.com failed to show that Mr. Ivanov purposely exploited the Illinois market.  “The record before us does not show that Ivanov deliberately targeted or exploited the Illinois market,” the appellate court found.  “All that be2 Holding submitted regarding Ivanov’s activity related to Illinois is the Internet printout showing that just 20 persons who listed Illinois addresses had at some point created free dating profiles on be2.net. . . Even if these 20 people are active users who live in Illinois, the constitutional requirement of minimum contacts is not satisfied simply because a few residents have registered accounts on be2.net.”

The appellate court noted that “as far as we can tell from the documents submitted by be2 Holding, the 20 Chicagoans who created free profiles on be2.net may have done so unilaterally by stumbling across the website and clicking a button that automatically published their dating preferences online.  There is no evidence that defendant 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.”

be2 LLC and be2 Holding, A.G. v. Nikolay Ivanov, Seventh Cir. No. 10-2980, issued April 27, 2011.

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