Suing Offshore Companies Made Easier

Rhett Pardon
PASADENA, Calif. - In a case of particular interest to online adult companies suing offshore companies, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that U.S. companies can serve court papers through standard mail to foreign post office boxes.

The case brings light to the apparent invincibility of the thousands of offshore companies which operate websites targeting U.S. porn surfers.

The case involves Ronald B. Brockmeyer, owner of Eromedia and several online adult sites, who filed a copyright and trademark infringement action against several defendants, including England’s Marquis Publications.

Brockmeyer mailed a copy of the summons and complaint to Marquis, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of England, at a post office box address listed in the 1997 edition of Marquis Magazine.

Brockmeyer eventually obtained a default judgment against Marquis for $424,000 because the company did not respond to court papers.

Marquis moved to set aside the default judgment on the ground that service was improper under the Hague Convention, which consists of most westernized countries including the Bahamas and Caribbean, because Brockmeyer sent the summons and complaint by regular mail to Marquis’ post office box instead of its registered address.

The district court denied Marquis’ motion to set aside the default judgment, holding that the Hague Convention permits service of process by mail, and the 9th Circuit agreed with the decision.

“We hold that such service is valid because Article 10(a) of the Hague Convention allows for service by mail and England’s domestic laws do not prohibit service by mail to a post office box,” Judge Barry Silverman, who wrote for the majority of the court in Brockmeyer v. Marquis Publications, 02-56283.