Tucows.com, a Nova Scotia tech company with a principal office in Ontario, bought over 30,000 domain names from an operation called Mailbank Inc. in 2006, including renner.com. Lojas Renner SA, a Brazilian retailer and the owner of the trade-mark ‘Renner’ in Brazil and other countries, filed an objection to Tucows.com’s use of renner.com under the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) rules. Tucows.com did not respond to the WIPO complaint but commenced an action in Ontario seeking a declaration that it had legitimate rights in the domain name. Tucows also asked WIPO to discontinue the complaint before it on the grounds that it duplicated the Ontario proceedings; WIPO agreed to this.

Renner objected to service on it in Brazil for the purposes of the Ontario action. Chapnik J found for Renner on the basis that service ex juris without a court order is permitted where there is a real and substantial connection to Ontario, which would in this case need to be predicated on real or personal property in Ontario. The domain name was not personal property and, being intangible, was not located in the province.

The Court of Appeal sided with Tucows. The legal status of domain names had not previously been determined, but Weiler JA was prepared to accept the emerging (and hardly surprising) view that they are intangible personal property. For the purposes of jurisdiction, the registrant and registrar of the domain name were located in Ontario, as were Tucows’s servers. Service on Renner outside Ontario was valid. [Link available here].