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Segan LLC v. Zynga Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

March 19, 2014

SEGAN LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
ZYNGA INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On July 29, 2011, the plaintiff Segan LLC ("Segan") initiated the instant action against the defendant Zynga, Inc. ("Zynga") alleging that several Zynga games infringe U.S. Patent No. 7, 054, 928 ("the '28 patent"). (D.I. 1.) Segan filed an amended complaint on October 13, 2011 (D.I. 14). Presently before the court is Zynga's Motion to Transfer to the Northern District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (D.I. 28.) For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion.

II. BACKGROUND

Segan is a New York limited liability company with its principal place of business in Long Island City, New York. (D.I. 14, 1.) Segan is the owner by assignment of '928 patent, which names Marc Segan and Gene Lewin as joint inventors. ( Id., 9, 10.) Zynga is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in San Francisco, California. (D.I. 29 at 2.)

The '928 patent is generally related to online recreational games involving a user device, a service provider, and a target website, all in communication with one another. (d. at 3-4.) Segan alleges that Zynga has infringed the '928 patent by making, using, selling, offering for sale, and/or importing into the United States a variety of computer applications covered by the '928 patent, including but not limited to, Cafe World, CityVille, Empires & Allies, FarmVille, FishVille, FrontierVille, Mafia Wars, PetVille, Treasure Isle, YoVille and Zynga Poker (collectively, the "Accused Games"). (D.I. 14, 15, 22.)

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"For 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(a). Under this provision, a district court may exercise "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 (3d Cir. 1995). The purpose of transfer is to protect litigants, witnesses, and the public from the unnecessary waste of time, energy, and money. See Virgin Wireless, Inc. v. Virgin Enters. Ltd., 201 F.Supp.2d 294, 299 (D. Del. 2002) (citing VanDusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964)).

The court undertakes a two-step inquiry in order to resolve a motion to transfer. "The court first asks whether the action could have been brought in the proposed transferee venue and then determines whether transfer to a different forum would best serve the interests of justice and convenience." Smart Audio Techs., L.L.C. v. Apple, Inc., 910 F.Supp.2d 718, 724 (D. Del. 2012). At each step, the defendant has the burden to demonstrate that a transfer is appropriate, Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879-80, and "unless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiffs choice of forum should prevail." Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970).

With regard to the second step of the inquiry, where court considers whether transfer would best serve the interests of justice and convenience, the Third Circuit has instructed district courts to look to the various private and public interests protected by§ 1404(a) rather than to any "definitive formula." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The private interests may include:

plaintiffs forum preference as manifested 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. (citations omitted). And 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 ...

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