Motion to Transfer Venue Granted where Necessitated by Interests of Judicial Efficiency

When does judicial efficiency require the District Court grant a defendant’s motion to transfer venue? Chief Judge Sleet recently ordered transfer to the Northern District of Illinois in a case where parallel litigation was at a more advanced stage than the Delaware case in Motorola Mobility, Inc. v. Apple Inc., C.A. No. 10-cv-867-GMS (D. Del. Jan. 5, 2012). In that case, another infringement action involving the same parties and the same patents had been filed in the Western District of Wisconsin and was later transferred to the Northern District of Illinois. The Northern District of Illinois case had already progressed through substantial discovery and beyond a Markman hearing, and the judge in that matter had already issued a decision construing some of the claim terms. It was scheduled for oral argument in the near future and for trial at least a year before a trial could be held in the Delaware matter. By contrast, the District of Delaware case was in its earliest stages, and related matters involving the Apple, the defendant moving for transfer, were currently stayed and unlikely to proceed during the pendency of the Illinois action.

Considering all of these facts, the court ordered transfer. Applying Supreme Court, Third Circuit, and Federal Circuit precedent, Chief Judge Sleet found that “the balance of interests necessitates the transfer of this action to the Northern District of Illinois.” Id. at 2 n.2. Although “the parties did not concentrate their written submissions or oral arguments on the private interest factors identified [by the Third Circuit] in Jumara,” the court found that these factors favored transfer. Id. In particular, the court observed that because of the parties’ financial means, “considerations of witness convenience, financial constraint, and the location of books and records are not significant issues” and that factor “is often rendered neutral.” Id. Furthermore, the court cited the Federal Circuit’s preference for the jurisdiction in which the action was “first filed,” as expressed in Electronics for Imaging, Inc. v. Coyle, 394 F.3d 1341 (Fed. Cir. 2005), but noted that the public and private interests at play “outweigh the deference afforded to [the plaintiff’s] choice of forum and necessitate[] transfer for reasons of judicial efficiency.” Motorola, at 2 n.2.

Finally, the court considered the defendant, Apple’s, argument that the case should not be tried in Delaware for reasons of forum non conveniens. While the court ordered transfer on other grounds, it warned that this forum non conveniens argument was not persuasive and even “strikes [the court] as disingenuous,” given that Apple itself has filed several patent infringement actions in Delaware and has argued to keep those actions in Delaware. “Consequently, while Apple correctly identified in its Reply that ‘the strongest argument in favor of transfer is judicial efficiency,’ the court urges Apple and other parties to refrain from extending their advocacy to arguments that, as was the case here, appear less than forthright.” Id. (citations omitted).

Motorola Mobility, Inc. v. Apple Inc., C.A. No. 10-cv-867-GMS (D. Del. Jan. 5, 2012).

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