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The purposeful availment requirement in determining personal jurisdiction ensures that a nonresident defendant will not be haled into court based upon "random, fortuitous or attenuated" contacts with the forum state.[1] "A purposeful availment analysis is most often used in suits sounding in contract."[2]

The purposeful availment inquiry . . . focuses on the defendant's intentionality. This prong is only satisfied when the defendant purposefully and voluntarily directs his activities toward the forum so that he should expect, by virtue of the benefit he receives, to be subject to the court's jurisdiction based on [his contacts with the forum ].[3]

This requirement is satisfied if the defendant "has taken deliberate action" toward the forum state.[4] It is not required that a defendant be physically present or have physical contacts with the forum, so long as his efforts are "purposefully directed" toward forum residents.

On the Internet[]

In the context of the Internet, to determine whether an online company has purposefully availed itself of the benefits of doing business in a particular jurisdiction through its website, U.S. courts have identified three categories of websites (referred to as the "Zippo test").[5] First, courts generally exercise personal jurisdiction over businesses that directly enter into contracts through the Internet with residents of the forum because the requisite purposeful availment has occurred.[6] Second, courts decline to exercise jurisdiction where a defendant simply posts information on an Internet website that is accessible to users in their jurisdiction.[7] Because a business cannot purposefully direct information to any particular jurisdiction merely through maintenance of a passive website, courts state that the exercise of personal jurisdiction is improper in these situations. Third, occupying a gray area are cases in which a user can exchange information with the host computer but cannot directly enter into contracts through the Internet. In these cases, personal jurisdiction is determined by examining the level of interactivity and commercial nature of the exchange of information that occurs on the website.[8]


  1. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985) (full-text).
  2. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004) (full-text).
  3. United States v. Swiss American Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 623-24 (1st Cir. 2001) (full-text) (citation omitted).
  4. Ballard v. Savage, 65 F.3d 1495, 1498 (9th Cir. 1995) (full-text).
  5. The test is named after the Zippo Manufacturing v. Zippo Dot Com decision.
  6. See, e.g., Thompson v. Handa-Lopez, Inc., 998 F. Supp. 738 (W.D. Tex. 1998) (full-text) (federal court in Texas could exercise jurisdiction where Texas consumer entered into contract with business on business’ website).
  7. See Resnick v. Manfredy, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5877 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 1999) (breach of attorney-fee agreement case); Bensusan Restaurant Corp. v. King, 937 F. Supp. 295 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (full-text), aff’d, 126 F.3d 25 (2d Cir. 1997) (full-text) (trademark infringement case); Mid City Bowling Lanes & Sports Palace, Inc. v. Ivercrest, 35 F. Supp. 2d 507 (E.D. La. 1999) (full-text) (trademark infringement case).
  8. See, e.g., Zippo Mfg. Co. v., Inc., 952 F. Supp. 1119, 1124 (W.D. Pa. 1997) (full-text) (trademark infringement case).