Case of the Day: Venice PI v. Galbatross Technologies

The case of the day is Venice PI, LLC v. Galbatross Technologies, LLP (D. Hawaii 2019). The case was for copyright infringement. The relevant defendants were in India. The plaintiff sought a TRO that would have enjoined a domain name registrar not to transfer domain names that the plaintiff alleged were owned by the defendants to a registrant outside the United States. Although the defendants had not appeared, the Court asked whether the plaintiff had properly effected service of process on them. (I am going to ignore the issue about whether service of process is required before a court can grant a TRO or a preliminary injunction). The plaintiff said it had served process by email and that the service was proper under Order V, Rule 20(1), of the Indian Code of Civil Procedure.

I was a little intrigued by this—I thought I knew that there was no Indian law under which a plaintiff could claim that service by email. It turns out that Order V, Rule 20(1) simply provides that if the court is satisfied that the defendant is trying to duck service, it can authorize alternate methods of service. It seems clear that you can’t bootstrap a foreign law allowing unspecified alternate methods of service into a general assertion that the method of service you want to use is permissible under the foreign law and therefore under Article 19 of the Hague Service Convention. And so the US court was right, I think, to conclude that service had to be made under the Convention’s central authority mechanism. The court was wrong, though, to conclude (if I am understanding the somewhat disjointed decision correctly) that if it wished, it could have authorized service in India by email. The Convention is exclusive, so if it applies, you can only use the methods of service it authorizes or permits.

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