(CN) – A Beatles autograph company cannot be sued in Florida because it does less than 5 percent of its Internet business in the Sunshine State, a Florida appeals court ruled.
Beatles Autographs, run by Frank Caiazzo out of New Jersey, is a company that buys, sells and authenticates Fab Four memorabilia.
American Royal Arts sells rock ‘n’ roll souvenirs at several locations in south Florida. The company was on the verge of selling a copy of the “Revolver” album, signed by all four Beatles, for $14,900.
Before completing the sale, however, the buyer sent a computer scan of the album cover to a British auction house, which in turn contacted Caiazzo to authenticate the signatures.
Caiazzo said that the signatures had been forged by a Southern California forgery ring.
American Royal Arts sued Caiazzo for defamation, unlawful restraint of trade and violation of the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The Florida court system has only discussed this case in terms of jurisdiction, rather than reaching the merits.
Though the trial court ruled that it has jurisdiction, the West Palm Beach-based Fourth District appeals court reversed the ruling in an unsigned decision.
“Unfortunately, the law is severely undeveloped and somewhat contradictory in the area of the Internet and general jurisdiction,” according to the 19-page ruling Wednesday. “However, it should be noted and underscored that ‘the mere existence of a website does not show that a defendant is directing its business activities towards every forum where the website is visible.'”
The justices noted that Caiazzo sold $100,000 worth of merchandise in Florida between 2003 and 2007, for a ratio of 4.35 percent.
Calling that number “de minimis,” the judges wrote that “Caiazzo’s website is of insufficient caliber to correctly find general jurisdiction over him.”
“Revolver” was released in 1966 and includes “Good Day Sunshine,” “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby.”