American Bar Association
Media Alerts
Media Alerts - Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF S.A. -- Fourth Circuit
Decrease font size
Increase font size
April 11, 2016
  Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF S.A. -- Fourth Circuit
Playing Chicken: Did Foreign Company Purposefully Avail Itself of Privilege of Conducting Business in State, Triggering Court's Jurisdiction?

Issue Presented: Whether the trial court had jurisdiction over a Brazilian chicken distributor whose only tie to the forum state was a business relationship with Perdue.

Brief Summary: Perdue Foods, LLC, sells chickens internationally and domestically under the trademark, Perdue. BRF is a Brazilian chicken producer that sells chicken in Brazil under the mark Perdix. BRF was also seeking to register that trademark in various foreign countries. In order to avoid product and consumer confusion, Perdue and BRF entered into an agreement by which BRF agreed not to pursue the trademark "Perdix" outside of Brazil and Perdue agreed not to pursue registration of "Perdue" in Brazil. Based on this agreement, the two companies began conducting a business relationship by which Perdue bought 700,000 pounds of chicken from BRF between 2012-2014. Pursuant to this contract, Perdue sent purchase orders to BRF in Brazil and BRF sent invoices to Perdue in Maryland. The chicken was shipped exclusively to Tanzania from Brazil.

Despite this business relationship, Perdue alleged that BRF had not honored the trademark agreement and continued to pursue registration of its mark "Perdix" in several foreign countries. As such, Perdue brought suit against BRF in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. BRF moved to dismiss the action, arguing that the Maryland court had no personal jurisdiction over BRF. The District Court granted the motion, finding Perdue had not alleged sufficient facts to establish the requisite jurisdiction. Perdue appealed.

In examining whether the court had personal jurisdiction, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit first examined what kind of personal jurisdiction was alleged - specific or general. The Fourth Circuit determined that general jurisdiction would not apply as it requires continuous business relationships and contacts with Maryland. The court then examined the inquiry under specific personal jurisdiction - which requires that the defendant purposefully established minimum contacts within the forum state. In this inquiry, the court examined: (1) the extent to which the defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the State; (2) whether the plaintiffs' claims arose out of those activities directed at the State; and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would be constitutionally reasonable.

The Fourth Circuit ultimately held there were not sufficient facts under review to establish specific personal jurisdiction over BRF. Relying primarily on the first prong of the analysis, the court determined that BRF did not purposefully avail itself of the laws and privileges of the forum state (Maryland). The court was persuaded by the fact that BRF had no officers or offices in Maryland, never traveled to Maryland, never sent any products to Maryland, and never dealt with any company (other than Perdue) in Maryland. In fact, the only fact the court determined Perdue alleged that showed some connection to Maryland was the Maryland choice of law clause contained in the contract. Despite Perdue's efforts to equate this situation to Burger King, the court was unmoved. Burger King featured a more than twenty-year franchise relationship between the defendant and the forum state, and was thus distinguishable from this case. Unlike the prolonged business interaction between the franchise in Burger King and the forum state, BRF's contact with Maryland featured a very discrete contract between BRF and Perdue. Further, the court found it persuasive that BRF merely sent invoices to Maryland, but never anything further. Ultimately, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the District Court's ruling dismissing the action for lack of personal jurisdiction.

To read the full opinion, click here.

Panel: Judges Motz, Floyd, and Gibney, Jr.

Argument Date: 12/09/2015

Date of Issued Opinion: 02/19/2016

Docket Number: No. 14-2120

Decided: Affirmed by published opinion

Case Alert Author: Alex H. Kelly, Univ. of Maryland Carey School of Law

Counsel: Damon W.D. Wright, VENABLE LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Jeffrey Eric Ostrow, SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT LLP, Palo Alto, California, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Brandon C. Martin, Palo Alto, California, Lori E. Lesser, SIMPSON THACHER & BARTLETT LLP, New York, New York; Geoffrey H. Genth, KRAMON & GRAHAM, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

Author of Opinion: Judge Motz

Case Alert Supervisor: Professor Renee Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 04/11/2016 11:29 AM     4th Circuit  

FuseTalk Enterprise Edition - © 1999-2018 FuseTalk Inc. All rights reserved.

Discussion Board Usage Agreement

Back to Top