Tag Archives: mandamus

Texas Startup Must Litigate Apple in California because of Convenience to the Tech Giant

by Dennis Crouch

The Federal Circuit recently denied a petition for mandamus seeking to overturn a district court order transferring a patent case from the Western District of Texas to the Northern District of California. In re Haptic, Inc., No. 2024-121 (Fed. Cir. June 25, 2024). This case was filed in Austin and assigned to Judge Robert Pittman with Haptic alleging that Apple’s “Back Tap” feature on iPhones infringes U.S. Patent No. 9,996,738 relating to gesture detection systems. Haptic is headquartered in Austin at the home of its longtime CEO and listed inventor Jake Boshernitzan.  The company was part of Techstars Austin Accelerator as it developed its product known as Knocki that allows users to tap on ordinary surfaces to control various actions on phones and other devices. Knock on wood. The patent and Knocki product are designed to expand touch interfaces beyond traditional touchscreens, potentially opening up new modes of interaction with smart devices and appliances. The ‘738 patent particularly issue covers systems and methods for detecting tapping or knocking gestures on surfaces to control electronic devices.

Apple also has a major presence in Austin, with about 10,000 Austin employees and a billion-dollar second headquarters campus in the city. Nevertheless, Judge Pitman (more…)

Venue Transfer and Witness Credibility

In re: Roku, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2023)

IOEngine sued Roku for patent infringement back in 2021. As is common with large corporate defendants sued in Waco, Roku asked Judge Albright to transfer the case to N.D. California on convenience grounds under 28 U.S.C. 1404.  Judge Albright refused — noting that Roku’s corporate witness lacked credibility and his testimony was “either misleading or based on an inadequate investigation of the facts.”  In particular, the record showed several Roku employees with “particularly relevant knowledge” of the case located in the W.D. Tex. (Austin), but that Roku had indicated all potential employee witnesses were located in Northern California.

Still, Roku petitioned for mandamus with some confidence, having seen the Federal Circuit previously repeatedly nitpick the work of Judge Albright on transfer motions.  Although Roku did not expressly claim that Judge Albright was biased, it did argue a failure of “objective assessment” (essentially the equivalent).

Objectively assessing the facts shows that the [Roku] employees in WDTX identified by IOENGINE do not possess relevant material information. And, even if they do, their knowledge is, at best, cumulative to the knowledge of Roku employees in NDCA.

Roku Petition.  Of course, the second sentence suggests the problem with Roku’s argument.

In the end here, the appellate panel did not move forward — holding that denial of transfer was not a “clear abuse of discretion” since the district court considered the relevant factors in its conclusion that Roku failed to show that the Northern District of California was clearly more convenient.

Transfer Venue: Texas Corp Status Given No Weight

In re Google LLC (Fed. Cir. 2023)

This is another mandamus action win by Google on convenience grounds. The Federal Circuit has ordered the case moved out of the Western District of Texas (Waco) to the Northern District of California.

Jawbone Innovations, LLC sued Google for patent infringement back in 2021 in W.D.Tex. (Waco).  Jawbone is a Texas company and has a physical base in Waco. But, as the court noted, the company was formed only a few months before the lawsuit was filed.  Some of you may own Jawbone headphone/speaker products.  The operating company closed in 2017, and Jawbone Innovations is a resulting patent-holding company.

As usual, Google moved to transfer its case out of the W.D. Tex.  Judge Albright reviewed and rejected the transfer motion and Google immediately petitioned for mandamus.  The Federal Circuit has now granted mandamus and ordered the case transferred.

Although the appellate court stated that it provided deference to Judge Albright’s decision, it ultimately rejected his analysis.  I note a couple of the issues below:

  1. Time to Trial: The appellate panel indicated that the likelihood of a speedy resolution in one jurisdiction versus another should not be given any regard in the convenience analysis unless the parties particularly justify why a speedy trial is important. Here, the court held that Jawbone clearly has no urgency to resolve the case since it is a non-practicing entity.  As such, the fact that W.D.Tex. may resolve the case faster than N.D.Cal. should be given no consideration.  This result appears problematic to me in general.  Although there is no Constitutional right to a speedy trial in patent cases,
  2. P is a (new) Texas Corp: The district court gave substantial weight to the fact that Jawbone is a Texas company and has an office in Waco near the Courthouse.  The Federal Circuit rejected that analysis — finding instead that Jawbone has no meaningful presence in the district.  Further, the claimed presence appears a transparent effort to manufacture facts favorable for this sort of venue challenge.

In addition to Google’s accused infringing design work being done in N.D.Cal., an important factor in this case is that the underlying Jawbone inventions were also created in N.D.Cal.; and that is the location of the former Jawbone decision-makers and prosecuting attorneys.

As I’ve written before, I expect Google’s true reason for asking for transfer is not primarily based upon any of the convenience factors. Rather Google is concerned that it is more likely to receive a harsh outcome in Texas from Judge Albright than it would before one of the N.D. Cal. Judges in Silicon Valley.