Forum shopping facilitated by Paris Court of Appeal decision

In My Little Paris v Violette 2008 (September 30 2009), the Paris Court of Appeal had to decide whether it had jurisdiction over a case involving a foreign website under Article 46 of the French Code of Civil Procedure.
Article 46 of the code provides as follows:
"The claimant may seize, at his choosing, in addition to the court which has jurisdiction over the place where the defendant resides:
- in tort matters, the court which has jurisdiction over the place where the wrongful act occurred or the damage was suffered."
In the present case, French company My Little Paris brought an action for unfair competition against Violette 2008. Since Violette's website was accessible in Paris, My Little Paris argued that it had suffered damage in Paris and that the Paris courts had jurisdiction over the case. The alleged damage had been assessed by a bailiff from Nanterre.
The first theory developed by the French courts was that they had jurisdiction over a foreign website as long as the site in question was accessible from the French territory. This theory was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court. Following this decision, the French courts had jurisdiction only where the website at issue targeted French consumers. For example, in Google v Axa (June 6 2007), the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that:
  • the mere fact that a website was accessible from France was insufficient to confer jurisdiction; and
  • the courts had to determine whether there was a "sufficient, substantial or significant link" between the alleged acts and the damage suffered.
Plaintiffs have circumvented this rule by providing as evidence a bailiff's report assessing the alleged damage within the bailiff's area of jurisdiction. This meant that the bailiff's court had jurisdiction over the case.
In the present case, the Court of Appeal held that the Paris courts have jurisdiction over a foreign website as long as it is accessible from France, even if the bailiff's report was not drawn up by a Paris bailiff.
The decision is significant in that it will facilitate forum shopping in France for all situations involving the infringement of IP rights covered by Article 46 of the code. Moreover, it contradicts the rule limiting the territorial scope of activity of bailiffs.
Estelle Benattar and Richard Milchior, Granrut Avocats, Paris

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