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Audatex North America, Inc. v. Mitchell International, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 28, 2013

AUDATEX NORTH AMERICA, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
MITCHELL INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GREGORY M. SLEET, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On February 6, 2012, the plaintiff, Audatex North America, Inc. ("Audatex"), filed suit against the defendant, Mitchell International, Inc. ("Mitchell"), alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 7, 912, 740 and 8, 200, 513. (D.I. 1.) On October 17, 2012, Mitchell filed a Motion to Transfer (D.I. 15), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), seeking to transfer the above-captioned action to the Southern District of California. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant Mitchell's motion.

II. BACKGROUND

As described in the Complaint and the parties' briefing in connection with the instant motion, Audatex is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in San Diego, California. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 1.) Likewise, Mitchell is also a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business and headquarters in San Diego, California. ( Id. at ¶ 2.) Audatex claims that Mitchell infringed its patents through the national use, sale, and marketing of Mitchell's WorkCenter™ software. ( Id. at ¶¶ 9-12.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

28 U.S.C. 1404(a) provides that, "[f]or 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 or to any district or division to which all parties have consented." 28 U.S.C. § 1404. The provision affords district courts with "broad discretion to determine, on an individualized, case-by-case basis, whether convenience and fairness considerations weigh in favor of transfer." Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3rd Cir. 1995). In this assessment, the court undertakes a two-step inquiry to determine whether a motion to transfer should be granted. First, the court must establish whether the action is one that could have originally been brought in the proposed transferee forum. See Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 24 (3rd Cir. 1970). Second, the court must then weigh whether transfer would best serve the interests of convenience and justice. See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The burden rests on the defendant to show that transfer is appropriate at each step, id. (citing Shutte, 431 F.2d at 22), and, "unless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of [the] defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should prevail" Shutte, 431 F.3d at 25 (citing Owatonna Manufacturing Co. v. Melore Co., 301 F.Supp. 1296, 1307 (D. Minn. 1969)).

DISCUSSION

A. The Propriety of the Transferee Forum

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), the proposed transferee forum must be one in which the action might have originally been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Accordingly, the court may only grant Mitchell's motion to transfer to the Southern District of California if venue would have been proper there and if that district court could have exercised personal and subject matter jurisdiction in the action. See 17 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 111.12[b] (3d ed. 2012).

As noted, both parties maintain their principal place of business in San Diego, California. (D.I. 1 at ¶¶ 1-2.) In addition, both parties' headquarters are located in the Southern District of California. Thus, it is clear that each party has sufficient minimum contacts with the proposed transferee forum to provide that district court with personal jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) ("Any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business."); see also id. §§ 1391(b)(1), 1391(d); FED. R. CIV. P. 4(k). Likewise, as a patent dispute, the Southern District of California would have subject matter jurisdiction over the action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a), which provides district courts with original jurisdiction in such matters. See 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a). Thus, the court finds that this action could have been brought originally in the proposed transferee forum and proceeds to the second step of the transfer analysis.

B. The Jumara Analysis

The court must next consider whether transferring this action to the Southern District of California would serve the interests of convenience and justice. See Mitel, 2013 WL 1856457, at *5. The Third Circuit has instructed that courts considering a transfer motion should perform a case-by-case analysis, rather than apply a "definitive formula." See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. This assessment should take into account the various public and private interests protected and defined in§ 1404(a). The private interests may include:

Plaintiff's forum preference as maintained in the original choice; the defendant's preference; whether the claim arose elsewhere; the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; the convenience of the witnesses - but only to the extent that the witnesses may actually be unavailable for trial in one of the fora; and the location of books and records (similarly limited to the extent that the files could not be produced in the alternative forum).

Id. The public interests may include:

the enforceability of the judgment: practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; the local interest in deciding local controversies at home; the public policies of the fora; and the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases.

Id. at 879-80.

Importantly, the Jumara analysis is not limited to these explicitly enumerated factors, and no one factor is dispositive. See id. at 879. The court ...


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