In Cruise Control Technologies LLC v. Chrysler Group LLC, et al., 12-1755-GMS (D. Del. Mar. 31, 2014), Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet granted defendants’ motion to transfer venue to the Eastern District of Michigan in this multi-defendant litigation. Id. at 3-4. Of the thirteen defendant car companies in the instant litigation, all but one filed motions to transfer or statements consenting to such transfer. Id. at 1-2. As Judge Sleet explained, defendants contend that venue is proper in the Eastern District of Michigan because each defendant has its “headquarters and/or research and development facilities . . . located there.” Id. at 6. Plaintiff did not contest this point, and Judge Sleet therefore turned to the Jumara private interest factors. Id.
First, Judge Sleet considered the parties’ choice of forum and found this factor to weigh against transfer. Id. at 6-7. Specifically, Judge Sleet explained that “the court declines to strip the plaintiff’s forum choice of the deference due merely because the plaintiff may have been formed primarily to enforce patent rights.” Id. at 7. Judge Sleet therefore found that “although the Defendants’ choice of the Eastern District appears to be a legitimate venue, [plaintiff’s] forum choice controls.” Id. at 7. Next, Judge Sleet addressed “where the claims arose,” and noted that “the crucial inquiry in determining the deeper roots of infringement claims is where the design and development of the accused products occurred.” Id. at 8-9. Judge Sleet explained that all defendants “are either headquartered in the Eastern District of Michigan and/or operate their research and development facilities there.” Id. at 8. Further, defendants’ “accused products and services were designed and developed in the Eastern District of Michigan” and “no design or development related to the accused products occurred in Delaware.” Id. at 8. Judge Sleet therefore found this factor to weigh strongly in favor transfer. Id. at 9.
Addressing the “convenience of the parties,” Judge Sleet noted “[t]he fact that the Defendants possess vast resources . . . does not mean that the court should follow an approach that would unnecessarily waste these resources.” Id. at 10. Judge Sleet further explained that “while the court does not seek to give short shrift to the inconvenience to [plaintiff] of being compelled to litigate outside the forum it has chosen, the court must ‘account for the absolute costs likely to flow from its transfer decision.’” Id. at 10. Judge Sleet thus found this factor to weigh in favor of transfer, given that all of defendants’ “employees involved in the research and design of the accused products or who otherwise possess knowledge relevant to the instant litigation are located in the Eastern District of Michigan.” Id. at 10-11. Judge Sleet similarly found “the witnesses’ convenience” to weigh in favor of transfer, noting that “unavailability of witnesses in this jurisdiction combined with inconvenience to third party witnesses is sufficient to establish that the witnesses’ convenience favors transfer.” Id. at 11.
After noting that the location of books and records was neutral in the Court’s analysis, Judge Sleet considered the Jumara public interest factors. Addressing practical considerations, Judge Sleet explained that “this action has significant connections to” the Eastern District of Michigan. Id. at 12. Further, as Judge Sleet pointed out, “even regarding those Defendants who are incorporated in Delaware, the Eastern District of Michigan still has a stronger interest to this litigation because it is where the claims arose and where the employees and known material witnesses are located.” Id. Judge Sleet additionally noted the fact that “all, except one, of the other Defendants are seeking transfer also weighs in favor of transferring the instant actions to the Eastern District of Michigan.” Id. at 13. Judge Sleet also found the administrative difficulty of the two fora to favor transfer, noting that “Delaware courts’ dockets are far more congested on average than those of courts in the Eastern District of Michigan,” and that “Delaware is one of the busiest patent jurisdictions in the nation.” Id. at 13-14.