Luxpro Corporation v. Apple, Inc.
ORDER denying 25 Motion to Transfer Case. Signed by Honorable Harry F. Barnes on September 28, 2009. (cap)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT W E S T E R N DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS T E X A R K A N A DIVISION LU X P R O CORPORATION, a T a iw a n e s e corporation PLAINTIFF v. CASE NO. 08-CV-4092 A P P LE , INC., f/k/a Apple Computer, Inc. ORDER DEFENDANT B e fo re the Court is a Motion to Transfer filed by Defendant Apple, Inc. ("Apple"). (Doc. 25). Plaintiff Luxpro Corporation ("Luxpro") responded. (Doc. 33). Apple replied. (Doc. 38). The Court fin d s this matter ripe for consideration. P l a in tiff Luxpro is a small Taiwanese corporation with its principle place of business in T a iw a n . Luxpro develops, manufactures, and distributes MP3 players worldwide. Defendant Apple is a California corporation with its principle place of business in Cupertino, California, which is in t h e Northern District of California. Apple manufactures, develops, and distributes MP3 players w o rld w id e under the brand name iPod. Luxpro filed this suit on October 14, 2008 claiming that Apple: 1) interfered with its c o n tra c tu a l/p ro s p e c tiv e advantage; 2) tortiously interfered with its contracts; 3) committed an a tte m p te d common law monopolization; 4) committed commercial disparagement; and 5) violated C a lifo rn ia Business and Professions Code section 17200. The conduct at issue in this case occurred in various countries around the world. Consequently, the potential witnesses offered by the parties a re located in many different countries around the world. "For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The Court is not limited to only these three factors in determining whether a transfer is p ro p e r; instead, the Court must "weigh in the balance a number of case-specific factors." Stewart O r g a n iz a tio n , Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 28, 108 S.Ct. 2239, 2244 (1988). The Court must c o n s id e r the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, the interest of justice, and a ll other relevant factors regarding the transfer. See Terra Intern., Inc. v. Mississippi Chemical Corp., 1 1 9 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 1997). In general, federal courts give considerable deference to the p la in tiff's choice of forum, and thus, the party seeking transfer typically bears the burden of proving th a t the transfer is warranted under 28 U.S.C. section 1404(a). Id. Under section 1404 the Court, when balancing the conveniences, may consider such things a s : 1) the convenience of the parties; 2) the convenience of the witnesses--including the willingness o f the witnesses to appear; 3) the accessibility to records and documents; 4) the location where the c o n d u c t complained of occurred; and 5) the applicability of each forum state's substantive law. T e r r a , 119 F.3d at 691. Shifting the inconvenience from one party to the other is not justifiable for a change of venue. R & R Packaging, Inc. v. GAP Roofing, Inc., 2007 WL 162730, *3 (W.D. Ark. 2 0 0 7 ). The Court may also consider the following when determining what is in the interest of justice u n d e r section 1404: 1) judicial economy; 2) the plaintiff's choice of forum; 3) the comparative costs to the parties of litigating in each forum; 4) each party's ability to enforce a judgment; 5) obstacles t o a fair trial; 6) conflict of law issues; and 7) the advantages of having a local court determine q u e s tio n s of local law. Terra, 119 F.3d at 691. A s an initial matter, the Court must determine whether Luxpro could have brought this suit in the Northern District of California. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Because Apple is headquartered there, Lu x p ro could have filed this case in the Northern District of California. 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). The 2 Court now must weigh the convenience and interest of justice factors along with any other factor or c irc u m s ta n c e that may be relevant to determine if a transfer is warranted. Terra, 119 F.3d at 691. Apple first argues that Luxpro's choice of forum should be afforded no deference because it does not reside in the chosen forum and there are no connections to the chosen forum. The Court d is a gre e s . The Court recognizes that some district courts do not afford the usual deference to the p la in tiff's choice of forum when the plaintiff does not reside in that forum. Thornton Drilling Co. v . Stephens Production Co., 2006 WL 2583659 *2 (E.D. Ark. 2006)(holding that transfer was w a rra n te d to district where conduct in dispute occurred and where a majority of witnesses were lo c a te d ); Biometics, LLC v. New Womyn, Inc., 112 F. Supp. 2d 869, 877 (E.D. Mo. 2000)(holding tra n s fe r to district where conduct in dispute occurred was warranted). However, the Court finds that th e facts here are distinguishable from Thornton and Biometics where the plaintiffs were both d o m e s tic corporations which were residents of districts other than the one where they chose to bring s u its . Here we have a foreign corporation with its residence in Taiwan, conduct that occurred outside o f the United States, and witnesses around the world. The Court will not disregard the deference p ro v id e d Luxpro because it brought its claim in a forum that was not its residence nor the place w h e re the conduct occurred when a U.S. forum with those two connections does not exist. Next, Apple argues that as a foreign plaintiff, Luxpro should have filed in a district with s o m e connection to the dispute. Amazin' Raisins Intern., Inc. v. Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., 2004 W L 2595896 *5. Apple also argues that Luxpro is forum shopping. The Court has the discretion to take into account, on a case-by-case basis, any factors or circumstances that may be relevant. T e r r a , 119 F.3d at 691. The Court reiterates that no state has connections of the type in Amazin' R a is in s . 2004 WL 2595896 *5 (in this patent infringement case, there was a district in which a m a n u fa c tu rin g plant was located and a district closest to the patent inventor, but the Canadian 3 plaintiff chose a district with no connections instead). The Court finds it relevant that the only c o n n e c tio n to California is that Apple is headquartered there. Therefore, Luxpro did not choose the W e s te rn District of Arkansas in spite of the existence of a district with substantial connections to the d is p u te . This, along with the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, leads the Court to find that Lu x p ro was not forum shopping. Next, Apple argues that the balance of conveniences favors a transfer. Luxpro disagrees and a rgu e s no convenient forum exist for the place the conduct in dispute occurred. The Court agrees that th e Northern District of California would be more convenient to travel to for the parties and some o f the nonparty witnesses. However, the Court is not convinced that the ability to subpoena or the lo c a tio n of documents favors the Northern District of California. The majority of witnesses in this c a s e seem to be international; thus, neither court will be in a better position to subpoena nonparty w itn e s s e s . Additionally, in this age of electronic document transmissions, the Court finds that the lo c a tio n of documents will not provide an inconvenience to either party. Furthermore, the Court a gre e s with Luxpro that no venue is more convenient for the place where the alleged wrongs o c c u rre d .1 A p p le also contends that the interest of justice favors transfer to the Northern District of C a lifo rn ia . Luxpro disagrees and argues that its choice of forum is entitled to deference and b e c a u s e the median time-to-trial is shorter in the Western District of Arkansas the Court should n o t transfer this case.The Court recognizes that the median time-to-trial in the Northern District The Court will not consider Apple's argument that because California law applies to Lu x p ro 's claims, this factor should weigh in favor of transfer. The Court recently noted in its M e m o ra n d u m Opinion on Apple's Motion to Dismiss that the parties had not adequately briefed th e choice-of-law issue and the Court will not make arguments for the parties. This situation has n o t changed. Therefore, the Court is unable to consider this factor here. 1 4 of California is more than double that of the Western District of Arkansas, and the median timeto -d is p o s itio n is also longer.2 The Court finds that this factor of judicial economy weighs in fa v o r of retaining this matter. Furthermore, the Court is not convinced that the comparative cost o f trial definitively favors the Northern District of California. Moreover, the Court does not find th a t Apple's arguments regarding additional cost to Luxpro to enforce a judgment weigh in favor o f transfer. Luxpro chose this forum with the knowledge that if it were successful on its claims it w o u ld then have to enforce them in California. The Court has considered all arguments presented regarding the transfer of this case and fin d s that Apple has not met its burden of proving that a transfer is warranted here. Apple has s h o w n the Court that the only convenience factor that definitively favors the Northern District of C a lifo rn ia is that it would be easier for the parties and some of the nonparty witnesses to travel to S a n Francisco, California rather than Texarkana, Arkansas. In this modern day of travel c o n v e n ie n c e s , this alone does not convince the Court that a transfer is warranted for convenience p u rp o s e s . Additionally, there is nothing here that indicates that the interest of justice cannot p ro p e rly be served in the Western District of Arkansas. Therefore, Apple's Motion to Transfer is D E N IE D . I T IS SO ORDERED, this 28th day of September, 2009. /s/ Harry F. Barnes Hon. Harry F. Barnes U n ite d States District Judge 2 w w w .u s c o u rts .go v /c gi-b in /c m s d 2 0 0 8 .p l (last visited September 24, 2009). 5