By Jason Rantanen
In re Verizon Business Network Services Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2011) Download 10-m956 order
Panel: Lourie, Gajarsa, and Linn (author)
The Federal Circuit continues to grant mandamus petitions relating to venue transfer where the basis for denying the request is tenuous. In Verizon, the defendants requested a transfer from the Eastern District of Texas to the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. Although several party witnesses resided within 100 miles of Dallas, and no witness resided within 100 miles of Marshall, the district court declined to transfer venue on the basis that several years earlier the court had handled a lawsuit involving the same patent and had construed 25 of the patent's terms.
Given that it was clear that trial in Dallas would be more convenient for the witnesses, the crux of the writ turned on whether the district court's familiarity with the patent was a plausible basis for denying transfer. The CAFC concluded it was not. Distinguishing its recent ruling in In Re Vistaprint Ltd., 628 F.3d 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2010), the panel held that "[t]o interpret § 1404(a) to hold that any prior suit involving the same patent can override a compelling showing of transfer would be inconsistent with the policies underlying § 1404(a)." Slip Op. at 6. The court continued:
In Vistaprint, we denied mandamus to overturn a denial of transfer and determined that the district court properly considered both its previous experience construing claims of the patent at issue and co-pending litigation before the district court involving the same patent and underlying technology. In this case, there is no assertion that there is an additional pending lawsuit in the Eastern District involving the patent and technology. Absent that, we deem the Eastern District's previous claim construction in a case that settled more than five years before the filing of this lawsuit to be too tenuous a reason to support denial of transfer.
Consequently, the court granted the petition.