By Jason Rantanen
In re Acer America Corporation (Fed. Cir. 2010)
Panel: Gajarsa, Schall (Author), and Moore
In 2008, MedioStream, a company headquartered in the Northern District of California, brought a patent infringement suit in the Eastern District of Texas against twelve hardware and software companies, five of which are also headquartered in the Northern District of California. The defendants moved to transfer venue to the Northern District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), which authorizes transfer "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice." The district court denied the motion, primarily because one of the defendants, Dell, Inc., is headquarted in Round Rock, Texas, relatively close to (albeit outside) the Eastern District of Texas. The defendants petitioned the Federal Circuit for a writ of mandamus.
On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Petitioners, concluding in a precedential opinion that the district court abused its discretion in denying the request to transfer venue. Particularly important in the panel's analysis was the fact that a substantial number of party witnesses reside in or near the Northern District of California, and requiring them to travel to the Eastern District of Texas would result in substantial expenses for airfare, meals, lodging, and the loss of productivity from time spent away from work, as well as the personal costs imposed on the witnesses. While it was possible that more than one Dell employee might testify, that number was likely to be insignificant in contrast with the substantial number of party witnesses that would be required to travel to Texas. Similarly weighing in favor of transfer to California was the venue's ability to compel testmony through subspoena power, the presence of a significant portion of the evidence in the Northern District of Caliornia (and none in the Eastern District of Texas), and the local interest of the Northern District flowing from the residence of many of the parties in that district.
Note: Last month, the court granted a temporary stay of the district court proceedings.