The Trade Secrets: A New Frontier in Copyright Jurisdiction


Intellectual Property Attorney Timothy B. McCormack discusses how the landmark case Washington Shoe Vs. A-Z Sporting Goods and the historic International Shoe Vs. The State of Washington case are linked in copyright jurisdiction


In the last episode of The Trade Secrets we looked at one of the most important jurisdiction cases in the last 70 to 100 years. The Washington Shoe v. A-Z Sporting Goods case. And to really put that case in perspective we’ve got to back 70 years and look at the grand-daddy of all jurisdictions, International Shoe v. State of Washington.

Now, interestingly, both of these cases involve the sale of shoes inside and outside the state of Washington. In International Shoe we had a Delaware corporation doing business in Missouri, with sales people and showrooms located in Washington. Now the state of Washington looked at this and said, “We don’t think you’re paying us enough taxes. We want unemployment for these sales people located in our state. International Shoe said, “We’re not doing enough business with you. Leave us alone. We already pay too many taxes.” It went to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court of the United States said, “Look, you’re selling shoes in Washington. You’ve got display rooms in Washington and, yeah, the shoes ship from Missouri to Washington. But there’s enough interstate commerce that we think that jurisdiction is proper. In other words, it was not unfair that this Delaware corporation, doing business in Missouri, should be sued in the state of Washington and have to pay taxes there. Because there was enough business going on. They said, “Look, if an infringer is willfully using your copyright from another state, and they know they’re causing damages in your home state, you can sue them there. And that does not offend the notions of fair play and substantial justice. One of the issues, was that it decided what was fair from the perspective of the defendant. In that case, International Shoe. Is it fair that they get hauled in to court somewhere else?

Okay. Let’s fast forward until about 1997. We had the advent of the internet. And suddenly, there was an explosion of interstate commerce. It was crazy. And we had a 70-year old antique analysis to sort of lead us through what was going to be fair in a particular case.

In the next episode of the Trade Secrets we will take a detailed look at this important ground-breaking decision.