Netgear Inc. v. Ruckus Wireless Inc.
MEMORANDUM ORDER denying 15 MOTION to Transfer Case to Northern District of California filed by Ruckus Wireless Inc. Signed by Judge Sue L. Robinson on 7/28/2011. (nmf)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF DELAWARE
RUCKUS WIRELESS, INC.,
) Civ. No. 10-999-SLR
At Wilmington this~""day of July, 2011, having reviewed defendant Ruckus
Wireless, Inc.'s ("defendant's") motion to transfer, as well as the papers submitted in
IT IS ORDERED that said motion (0.1. 15) is denied, as follows:
1. Background. On November 19, 2010, plaintiff NETGEAR, Inc. ("plaintiff')
instituted the present patent infringement litigation against defendant alleging that
defendant infringes United States Patent Nos. 5,812,531 ("the '531 patent"); 6,621,454
("the '454 patent"); 7,263,143 ("the '143 patent"); and 5,507,035 ("the '035 patent")
(collectively, the "patents-in-suit"). (0.1. 1 at ~ 4) Defendant, a Delaware corporation
having its principal place of business in California, manufactures and distributes
communications devices. (Id. at ~ 3) Plaintiff, a Delaware corporation having its
principal place of business in California (id. at ~ 2), markets networking equipment for
the commercial business, consumer, and broadband service provider markets. (0.1. 23
2. In May 2008 and November 2009, defendant filed two patent infringement
actions against plaintiff in the United States District Court for the Northern District of
California (N.D. Cal. Civ. Nos. 08-2310 and 09-5271). (0.1. 8 at 3) Both actions have
been stayed pending resolution of an inter partes reexamination proceeding initiated by
plaintiff in the United States Patent Office with respect to one of the two patents at
issue in the first filed action. (Id.) The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,193,562,
7,358,912, and 7,525,486. (0.1. 16 at 10) It is undisputed that the patents are
unrelated to those at issue in the present litigation as they share neither common
owners, inventors, nor patent families. (0.1. 23 at 12)
3. On January 12, 2011, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the complaint at bar
for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(6). (0.1. 7) Defendant contends that "[plaintiff's] claims for patent infringement do
not satisfy the pleading requirements set forth by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal
and Bell Atlantic
Twombly . ...
(0.1.8 at 1) Specifically, defendant alleges that
plaintiffs indirect and willful infringement claims lack basic factual allegations such as
whether, when and how defendant was aware of the patents at issue, which third
parties directly infringed the patent, requisite intent and knowledge elements, and
specific acts of inducement committed by defendant. (0.1. 8 at 1, 4, 8-12) Defendant
requests that the complaint be dismissed in toto or, alternatively, that the Court dismiss
plaintiffs claims of direct infringement, induced and contributory infringement, and
willfu I infringement. (/d.)
4. On January 31,2011, plaintiff filed its answering brief in opposition to
defendant's motion to dismiss. (0.1. 13) Plaintiff attached a proposed amended
complaint requesting that, "[i]f the court finds [plaintiffs] complaint deficient, ... the
court find that the proposed amended complaint pleads [plaintiffs] infringement claims
sufficiently" in order to move the case forward without further delay. (Id. at 1, 3, ex. 1)
5. On May 6, 2011, defendant moved to transfer the present action to the
Northern District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (0.1. 15) Defendant
asserts that transfer is appropriate because nothing in the present litigation is "even
remotely linked to the District of Delaware." (0.1. 16 at 1) Specifically, defendant
argues that: (1) plaintiff should have brought the action in the Northern District of
California because both plaintiff and defendant have their respective headquarters and
primary places of business there; (2) the court should not defer to plaintiffs choice of
forum as it did not sue on its home turf; (3) nearly all key events. parties, documents,
and third party witnesses are in California; (4) there are already two patent infringement
lawsuits involving related technologies pending between the parties in the Northern
District of California; and (5) court congestion in Delaware gives rise for transfer to
California. (0.1. 16-17)
6. Plaintiff opposes transfer, arguing that the court should defer to its choice of
forum because: (1) defendant, having been incorporated in Delaware and availed itself
of Delaware's corporate laws, cannot contend that it is inconvenient to litigate in
Delaware; (2) defendant. a corporation with nationwide sales, has not met its burden to
compel the court to transfer the case as it has not shown financial hardship in litigating
in Delaware; (3) defendant is unable to point to any witness or document that could not
be produced in Delaware; (4) the California litigations involve different patents; and (5)
defendant has not shown why transfer would enhance judicial efficiency. (0.1. 23)
7. Standard. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer any civil
action to any other district where the action might have been brought for the
convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice. Congress intended
through § 1404 to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions to transfer
according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and the
interests of justice. Stewarl Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988);
Affymetrix, Inc. v. Synteni, Inc., 28 F. Supp. 2d 192,208 (D. Del. 1998).
8. The burden of establishing the need to transfer rests with the movant "to
establish that the balance of convenience of the parties and witnesses strongly favor
the defendants." Bergman v. Brainin, 512 F. Supp. 972, 973 (D. Del. 1981) (citing
Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22,25 (3d Cir. 1970»; Medicis Pharm. Corp. v.
Nycomed US. Inc., Civ. No. 10-419-SLR, 2011 WL 1230276, at *2 (D. Del. Mar. 31,
2011). "Unless the balance is strongly in favor of a transfer, the plaintiff's choice of
forum should prevail." ADE Corp. v. KLA- Tencor Corp., 138 F. Supp. 2d 565, 567-68
(D. Del. 2001); Shutte, 431 F.2d at 25. The deference afforded plaintiff's choice of
forum will apply as long as a plaintiff has selected the forum for some legitimate reason.
C.R. Bard, Inc. v. Guidant Corp., 997 F. Supp. 556,562 (D. Del. 1998); Cypress
Semiconductor Corp. v. Integrated Circuit Sys.) Inc., Civ. No. 01-199, 2001 WL
1617186, at *2 (D. Del. Nov. 28, 2001); Padcom, Inc. v. NetMotion Wireless, Inc., Civ.
No. 03-983-SLR, 2004 WL 1192641, at *7 (D. Del. May 24,2004). Although transfer of
an action is usually considered as less inconvenient to a plaintiff if the plaintiff has not
chosen its '''home turf or a forum where the alleged wrongful activity occurred, the
plaintiff's choice of forum is still of paramount consideration, and the burden remains at
all times on the defendants to show that the balance of convenience and the interests
of justice weigh strongly in favor of transfer." In re M.L.-Lee Acquisition Fund II, L.P.,
816 F. Supp. 973, 976 (D. Del. 1993).
9. The Third Circuit has indicated that the analysis for transfer is very broad.
Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873,879 (1995). Although emphasizing that
"there is no definitive formula or list of factors to consider," id., the Third Circuit has
identified potential factors it characterized as either private or public interests. The
private interests include:
(1) plaintiff's forum preference as manifested in the original choice; (2)
defendant's preference; (3) whether the claim arose elsewhere; (4) the
convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial
condition; (5) the convenience of the witnesses but only to the extent that the
witnesses may actually be unavailable for trail in one of the fora; and (6)
location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files
could not be produced in the alternative forum).
Id. (citations omitted). The public interests include:
(1) the enforceability of the judgment; (2) practical considerations that could
make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; (3) the relative
administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; (4) the
local interest in deciding local controversies at home; (5) the public policies
of the fora; and (6) the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state
law in diversity cases.
Id. (Citations omitted).
10. Discussion. Motions for transfer generally will not be granted unless: "(1)
there is no bona fide relationship between Delaware and the defendant; (2) there is a
related first-filed case in another district; or (3) the defendant is truly a regional
enterprise." Quantum Loyalty Systems, Inc. v. TPG Rewards, Inc., Civ. No. 09-022,
2009 WL 890644, at *2 (D. Del. Apr. 2, 2009). As always, the court stresses that,
because defendant is a Delaware corporation, it has no reason to complain about being
sued in Delaware. Defendant does not contend that it is a regional enterprise.
Therefore the determination is based on whether the patents in the pending actions and
the present action are related. 1
11. The patents at issue in the pending litigation in the Northern District of
California originated from different companies, have different inventors, and are of
different patent families from the patents-in-suit. (0.1. 16 at 3,10; 0.1. 17; 0.1. 23 at 12)
The fact that the pending California actions involve the same basic wireless router
technology as that at issue in this lawsuit (0.1. 16 at 4) is not compelling. See Praxair,
Inc. V. ATMI, Inc., Civ. No. 03-1158, 2004 WL 883395, at *2 (D. Del. April 20,2004)
(rejecting defendant's judicial efficiency argument and noting that, "while the patents
may relate to the same technological field, they nonetheless involve different patents,
claims, inventors, prosecution histories and a different set of alleged infringing
activities."); Auto. Techs. Int'l, Inc. v. Am. Honda Motor Co., Inc., Civ. No. 06-187,2006
WL 3783477, at *3 (D. Del. Dec. 21,2006) (transfer denied where the patents in the co
pending litigation were different, the court noting that "nothing in the Detroit lawsuits
yields any potential savings in judicial economy, given the attenuated connection
between those patents and the patents here in suit.").
12. Moreover, the California actions have been stayed pending resolution of an
inter partes reexamination with respect to one of the patents at issue. (0.1. 16 at 3-4;
0.1. 17) No substantive action has taken place in those actions. (/d.) For these
1The court has granted motions to transfer in the interest of judicial economy
where litigation in Delaware involved a patent related to another patent in an ANDA
litigation filed first in another district and was a continuation of that patent. See, e.g.,
Medicis Pharm. Corp. v. Nycomed U.S. Inc., Civ. No. 10-1099,2011 WL 2457598, at *3
(D. Del. June 16, 2011).
reasons, defendant's judicial efficiency argument is without merit. See Invitrogen Corp.
v. Incyte Genomics, Inc., Civ. No. 01-692, 2002 WL 883963, at *3-4 (D. Del. May 1,
2002) (even where the action at issue involved the same patents as those under
consideration in a different forum, transfer was denied because it was no closer to trial
13. With respect to defendant's argument regarding court congestion, it is true
that this court's docket reflects the fact that patent cases, perhaps more often than in
other districts, are given a trial date and tried to resolution. Nevertheless, it is the rare
request from counsel for earlier trial dates than those provided by the court and even
rarer when such requests are not accommodated by the court to some extent. The
court also notes the irony that many members of the bar argue both sides of this
argument from case to case, making it even more of a non-issue from the court's
14. Neither is the court persuaded by defendant's arguments regarding
convenience. In this electronic age, there are no substantial burdens associated with
discovery or witness availability that support the need for transfer. With respect to
discovery, documents generally are stored, transferred and reviewed electronically. It
would be surprising to the court to find that sophisticated litigants, such as those at bar,
still maintain their business records in hard copy, thus requiring either travel to
California for review of the documents or the copying and transporting of documents.
With respect to witnesses, generally the parties agree to take depositions where the
witnesses are located (or the court can so order). Moreover, for those cases that get to
trial, only a handful of witnesses testify live, and only a very small proportion of those
documents produced during discovery are used as trial exhibits. Given these realities,
this factor is outdated, at best, and should be given little weight, if any, except for those
rare exceptions where truly regional defendants are litigating.
15. Finally, the court weighs California and Delaware's respective public interest
in deciding this dispute as evenly balanced between the two states. Even if the parties
are California residents, they are both corporate citizens of Delaware and, accordingly,
subject to suit in Delaware. (D.1. 1 at 1l3)
16. Conclusion. Given that the defendant is incorporated in Delaware, the
litigation pending in California involves patents unrelated to those at issue here, and
defendant has not articulated any compelling justification for transfer, defendant's
motion for transfer is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff is granted leave to file its amended
complaint on or before Friday, August 5,2011. Should plaintiff not timely do so, the
court will consider defendant's pending motion to dismiss.
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