US companies seeking to enforce intellectual property rights against Canadians face certain challenges. First, a US company would commence a lawsuit in a US court, and must serve the Canadian person or entity in Canada. A US plaintiff would serve a Canadian under the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (known as the “Hague Convention”). Under this Convention, there is a Central Authority designated federally and for each province and territory. In Alberta, this is done through Alberta Justice, Office of the Sheriff (Civil Enforcement) in Edmonton or Calgary. The normal procedure for service in Canada is personal service, and in Alberta this is through a ”process server”. Once served, the Canadian then has to decide whether to respond to the US lawsuit.
Blizzard then came to Canada to enforce their US judgement against Mr. Simpson. This required a second lawsuit (in Ontario, where Mr. Simpson resided). A Canadian court assesses the jurisdiction of the original court (by applying Canadian conflict of laws rules), and verifies that there are no defences of fraud, breach of natural justice, or public policy, which would cause the Canadian court to refuse to enforce the US judgement.
In this case, Mr. Simpson elected to defend the lawsuit in Canada. But by that time it was too late, since the court was not considering the merits of the copyright infringement case, but rather was reviewing the enforcement of a foreign judgement that had already been granted. Mr. Simpson attempted a novel defence by alleging that it was Blizzard who breached the terms of Mr. Simpson’s own website (terms that prohibited access by employees or lawyers of Blizzard). The court found this argument “untenable”, and concluded by entering the California judgement as a judgement of the Ontario court.
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Lessons for Canadian business: don’t ignore US lawsuits!