Delaware corporation with principal place of business in San Jose, California, sued its former employee (who is a South Korean citizen and resident) for intentional interference with contractual relations. Allegedly, the employee used the plaintiff's proprietary information to obtain patents in the U.S. and South Korea, then sent letters to the plaintiff's customers (which includes Samsung Electronics) that the customers were infringing upon his patent.
The court first found that it had personal jurisdiction over the defendant, as the defendant expressly aimed his activities to California. The court, however, found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction insofar as it needs to determine the validity of the Korean patent obtained by the defendant. Accordingly, the court granted a partial motion to dismiss, with leave to amend the complaint by deleting references to the validity of the Korean patent.
This is a strange case. The court here declined to assess the validity of the Korean patent, but U.S. courts assess the validity of obligations created under foreign laws all the time! For example, compare this case to Tech Sonic, Inc v. Sonics & Materials, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94979 (D. Conn. July 20, 2016) that this blog previously covered. Also, here are my general thoughts on U.S. courts applying foreign laws.
I am actually not in favor of U.S. courts reaching beyond its territorial jurisdiction willy-nilly. (I discuss this in greater detail when my forthcoming academic paper, Equity Extraterritoriality.) But in this instance, the court is being excessively modest. There is no reason why the plaintiff here should go through the trouble of amending its complaint just to avoid the Korean law question as to the patents.
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