Abandoned border by mtsrs (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/49aR7g

Abandoned border by mtsrs (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/49aR7g

Jurisdiction

Quebec Court Rejects eBay’s Online Contract Opening Door to Local Lawsuit

Few things are more common on the Internet than the lengthy, largely incomprehensible, online contracts that are often buried at the bottom of web pages with a simple link to “terms”. These agreements sometimes run dozens of pages if printed out and invariably transfer all responsibility and liability to the user, while selecting a jurisdiction clause that is advantageous to the website and inconvenient to most users.

Consumers agree to these contracts dozens of times each day (sometimes proactively by clicking that they agree and most other times by impliedly agreeing to the terms by using the website), but the enforceability of all the terms within the agreement remains an open question.

The law has removed most uncertainty about whether an electronic contract can be enforceable – it can – but ensuring that the form of the contract is valid does not mean that all of its provisions will be enforced by a court.  My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that last month, a Quebec court provided an important reminder that some provisions may not be enforced, as it rejected eBay’s standard terms which require all disputes to be adjudicated in California.

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April 4, 2013 10 comments Columns

Quebec Court Says No to eBay’s Online Contract

Appeared in the Toronto Star on March 30, 2013 as Quebec Court Says No To eBay’s Online Contract Few things are more common on the Internet than the lengthy, largely incomprehensible, online contracts that are often buried at the bottom of web pages with a simple link to “terms”. These […]

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April 3, 2013 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive

Courts Adopt Aggressive Approach in Cross-Border Internet Jurisdiction Cases

In a world where data now moves effortlessly between computers on the Internet without regard for geographic borders, is the appearance of a website on a computer screen sufficient for a court to claim that a trademark has been used in the country? Is the use of a computer server enough to assert jurisdiction over a non-resident?  My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that two recent cross-border cases – one Canadian and one U.S. which both pitted a U.S. company against a Canadian individual – found that it is.

The Canadian case involved a trade-mark dispute over the mark VRBO. Martin Hrdlicka, a Toronto resident, registered the mark in Canada in 2009. Just over a year later, Homeaway.com, a U.S. company that owns the popular VRBO.com site, sought to expunge the trade-mark on the grounds that Hrdlicka was not entitled to register the mark and had no intent to use it.

Homeaway.com’s legal challenge was that the company had no operations in Canada, though many Canadians may have accessed its U.S.-based website. Trade-mark law requires some use of the mark in Canada, yet the “use” in this case was largely confined to the availability of the VRBO website on computer screens.

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January 9, 2013 6 comments Columns

Courts Adopt Aggressive Approach in Cross-Border Internet Jurisdiction Cases

Appeared in the Toronto Star on January 6, 2013 as Courts Adopt Aggressive Approach in Cross-Border Internet Jurisdiction Cases In a world where data now moves effortlessly between computers on the Internet without regard for geographic borders, is the appearance of a website on a computer screen sufficient for a […]

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January 9, 2013 Comments are Disabled Columns Archive

All Your Internets Belong to US, Continued: The Bodog.com Case

Imagine a scenario in which a country enacts a law that bans the sale of asbestos and includes the power to seize the assets of any company selling the product anywhere in the world. The country tests the law by obtaining a court order to seize key assets of a Canadian company, whose operations with hundreds of employees takes a major hit. The Canadian government is outraged, promising to support the company in its efforts to restore its operations.

That is the opening of my technology law column this week (Toronto Star version, homepage version) which continues by noting this scenario became reality last week, though the product was not asbestos and the Canadian government has yet to respond. The case involves Bodog.com, a Canadian-owned online sports gaming site and the country doing the seizing was the United States. Supporting online gaming operations will undoubtedly make governments somewhat squeamish, but the broader implications of last week’s seizure touch on millions of websites and Internet companies who now find themselves subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

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March 6, 2012 30 comments Columns