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Blackbird Tech LLC v. Tuffstuff Fitness International, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 27, 2017




         On August 22, 2016, plaintiff, Blackbird Tech LLC d/b/a Blackbird Technologies ("Blackbird"), initiated the instant action against defendants TuffStuff Fitness International, Inc. ("TuffStuff'), and The Gym Source, .Inc. ("Gym Source") (collectively, "Defendants"). (D.I. 1.) The plaintiff alleges infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6, 705, 976 ("the '976 patent") which relates to exercise equipment manufactured by TuffStuff. (Id. at ¶¶ 12-50.) Presently before the court is TuffStuff s Motion to Dismiss or, In the Alternative, Transfer Venue to the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).[1] (D.I. 10.) For the reasons that follow, the court will grant TuffStuff s Motion to Transfer.[2] (Id.)


         As described in the Complaint and the parties' briefing, Blackbird is a Delaware limited liability company. (D.I. 1, ¶ 1.) At the time the complaint was filed, Blackbird's principal place of business was located in Boston, Massachusetts (Id.), although Blackbird's briefing addressing the instant motion identified its current principal place of business as Concord, Massachusetts. (D.I. 24 at 2.) Blackbird is the assignee and owner of the patent-in-suit. (Id. at ¶ 10) TuffStuff is a California corporation with its principal place of business in Chino, California. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Gym Source is a New York Corporation with its principal place of business in New York. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 14.) Gym Source allegedly sells and offers to sell the TuffStuff accused products to customers located in Delaware. (Id. at ¶ 14.)


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court has "broad discretion to determine, on an individualized, case-by-case basis, whether the convenience and fairness considerations weigh in favor of transfer." Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 883 (3d Cir. 1995). The court engages in a two-step inquiry. It first determines whether the action could have been brought originally in the proposed transferee forum and then asks whether transfer would best serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses as well as the interests of justice. Smart Audio Techs., LLC v. Apple, Inc., 910 F.Supp.2d 718, 725 (D. Del. 2012). It is the defendant's responsibility to demonstrate that transfer is appropriate at each step, Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879-80, and, "unless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of defendant, the plaintiffs choice of forum should prevail." Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970).


         A. The Propriety of the Transferee Forum

         The court may only transfer an action to a "district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Accordingly, the court may only grant the defendant's motion to transfer to the Central District of California if venue would have been proper there and if that district court could have exercised personal and subject matter jurisdiction over this action. 17 James Wm. Moore et al, Moore's Federal Practice § 111.12[b] (3d ed. 2012).

         Blackbird does not contest that it could have brought this action in the Central District of California.[3] (D.I. 11.) Personal jurisdiction would not present a problem, as TuffStuff has its principal place of business and headquarters in Chino, California. (D.I. 1, ¶ 2.) See Affymetrix, Inc. v. Synteni, Inc., 28 F.Supp.2d 192, 196 (D. Del. 1998). Additionally, the Central District of California would have subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1338 Under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), "[a]ny 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." Venue, therefore, would have been proper in the Central District of California, because TuffStuff s headquarters and principal place of business are located in that District. Likewise, personal jurisdiction would have existed due to TuffStuff s presence in California, and subject matter jurisdiction would have existed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1338, and venue would have been appropriate under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1391(b) and 1400(b). Since Blackbird could have brought this action in the proposed transferee venue, the court turns to the second prong of the analysis.

         B. The Jumara Analysis

         The court next must determine whether transfer to the Central District of California would serve the interests of convenience and justice. In the Third Circuit, courts do not apply a "definitive formula" when considering a motion to transfer. Instead, the analysis is done on a case-by-case basis during which consideration must be given to both private and public interests-the so-called "Jumara factors." See Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. The private interests may include: the plaintiffs choice of forum; the defendant's preference; whether the claim arose elsewhere; the convenience of the parties; the convenience of the expected witnesses; and the location of the books and records. Id. The relevant public interests 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; [and] the public policies of the fora." Id. at 879-80. The court addresses each of these in turn.

         1. Private Interest Factors

         a. Plaintiff's Forum Preference

         The first private interest factor is the "plaintiffs forum preference as manifested in the original choice." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879. As a general matter, the court accords substantial deference to this forum decision. Shutte, 431 F.2d at 25 ("It is black letter law that a plaintiffs choice of a proper forum is a paramount consideration in any determination of a transfer request, and that choice 'should not be lightly disturbed.'"). The plaintiffs preference, however, is not "effectively dispositive of the transfer inquiry, " and the court accords this factor less weight in certain situations. In re Link_A_Media Devices Corp.,662 F.3d 1221, 1223 (Fed. Cir. 2011); see also Mitek Sys., Inc., 2012 WL 3777423, at *4 (D. Del. August 30, 2012). Specifically, the Federal Circuit has warned ...

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