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PERDUE FOODS, LLC v. BRF S.A., NO. 14-2120

Decided: February 19, 2016

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

In 2002, plaintiff Perdue Foods became concerned about potential consumer confusion between its trademark, “Perdue”, and that of defendant BRF, an international food company headquartered in Brazil that supplied poultry to Perdue. BRF sells poultry under the trademark “Perdix.” In 2003, Perdue and BRF negotiated a Worldwide Coexistence Agreement (“Agreement”) that stated that Perdue would abandon use of its trademark in Brazil and BRG would abandon use of a version of its trademark worldwide. The agreement contained a Maryland choice of law clause. In 2014, Perdue brought this action in the District Court of Maryland alleging that BRF breached the agreement by failing to abandon existing trademark registration in some countries and filing new trademark applications in others. The district court granted BRF’s motion to dismiss the suit pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Perdue argued only that the court had specific personal jurisdiction not general so the court only used a specific jurisdiction analysis. The court held that it had to consider several factors in this analysis: 1) whether the defendant purposely availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the state, 2) whether the plaintiff’s claims arose out of those activities directed at the state, and 3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally reasonable. The court reasoned that Perdue failed to prove the first prong of the test because BRF did not purposely avail itself of the privilege of doing business in Maryland. The court analyzed several factors in making this determination such as whether the defendant maintains agents in the state, owns property in the state, and engaged in significant or long-term business activities in the state. The court determined that Perdue provided little evidence in support of these factors and that the only substantial evidence in favor of personal jurisdiction was the choice of law clause. Therefore, the court held that the district court did not have personal jurisdiction over BRF.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Full Opinion

Michael W. Rabb