By Chris Mehrmann and Amy Nogid
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the Maryland district court’s determination that it lacked specific personal jurisdiction over a Brazilian poultry exporter, BRF S.A. (BRF), under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Perdue Foods LLC (Perdue), which sold poultry using the “PERDUE” mark, bought the underlying action against BRF, which sold poultry using the “PERDIX” mark, alleging that BRF breached an agreement with a Maryland choice-of-law clause under which it had agreed to abandon using a version of its PERDIX mark to avoid customer confusion. Id. The district court granted BRF’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that Perdue failed to allege facts sufficient to establish that BRF had the requisite minimum contacts with Maryland. Id. In affirming the lower court’s decision, the Fourth Circuit explained that BRF had no employees or property in Maryland, conducted no business in Maryland, and that the alleged breach of the agreement occurred outside of Maryland. Id. Although the Court of Appeals acknowledged that personal jurisdiction may be established through a single contract with a resident of the forum, and that the choice-of-law provision weighs in favor of jurisdiction, the court found that the agreement expressly prevented BRF from doing business in Maryland with its trademark and therefore did not demonstrate that BRF purposefully availed itself of the privilege of doing business in the state. Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF S.A., No. 14-2120 (4th Cir. Feb. 19, 2016).