Celgard, LLC v. SK Innovation Co., ___F.3d ___ (Fed. Cir. July 6, 2015) (Newman, REYNA, Wallach) (W.D.N.C.: Cogburn) (2 of 5 stars)
Federal Circuit affirms dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction.
As an initial matter, the district court applied the correct burden of proof. Because the parties disputed a number of jurisdictional facts, and because the district court did not hold a hearing, the court correctly reviewed the evidence for prima facie jurisdiction, resolving all factual disputes in the plaintiff’s favor. A preponderance of the evidence was not required.
Even under this standard, however, Celgard failed to show that SKI, a South Korean company making components used in battery products that were put into Kia electric vehicles, had sufficient contacts with North Carolina. There was no evidence that SKI had “purposefully directed” activities toward North Carolina. Advertisements by local Kia dealers for a car that included battery components from SKI did not suffice, because nothing suggested that the dealers were SKI’s agents or alter egos. Moreover, allegations of a joint venture agreement between SKI and “KMC” (the parent company of Kia Motors of America) were insufficient, as there was no evidence that the North Carolina dealers knew of the agreement.
Celgard’s alternative argument under a “stream of commerce” theory also failed. The Federal Circuit declined to resolve the continued uncertainty regarding whether “mere placement” of goods into the stream of commerce was sufficient to establish jurisdiction, “or whether intent that the products reach the forum is required[.]” Op. at 13. Celgard did not meet either test, as it was unable to establish that any SKI product had ever actually entered North Carolina. Celgard’s submission of test results “not inconsistent with” the presence of an SKI battery component in certain in-state goods did not suffice, because the tests did not rule out the possibility of other manufacturers’ components yielding similar results.