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Realtime Data LLC v. Egnyte, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 1, 2018

REALTIME DATA LLC, d/b/a IXO, Plaintiff,
v.
EGNYTE, INC. Defendant.

          Stephen B. Brauerman, Sara E. Bussiere, BAYARD, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware; Mark A. Fenster, Paul A. Kroeger, Reza Mirzaie, RUSS, AUGUST & KABAT, Los Angeles, California Counsel for Plaintiff

          Adam W. Poff, Robert M. Vrana, YOUNG, CONAWAY, STARGATT & TAYLOR LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Dwayne K. Goetzel, Ryan T. Beard, MEYERTONS, HOOD, KIVLIN, KOWERT & GOETZEL, P.C., Austin, Texas Counsel for Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CONNOLLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Realtime Data LLC has sued Egnyte, Inc., a Delaware corporation, for patent infringement. Egnyte has moved pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) to transfer this case to the Northern District of California-where Egnyte is headquartered, has its principal place of business, and can produce its witnesses and documents more easily. Realtime has pending suits against other defendants in the Northern District alleging violations of some of the same patents that are at issue here, but it has many more such suits pending in this District before me. For the reasons discussed below, I will deny Egnyte's motion to transfer (D.I. 10).

         Section 1404(a) provides that "[f]or the convenience of the parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). It is undisputed that this action could have been brought in the Northern District of California. Thus, the only issue before me is whether I should exercise my discretion under § 1404(a) to transfer the case to California.

         Egnyte has the burden "to establish that a balancing of proper interests weigh[s] in favor of the transfer." Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3dCir. 1970). This burden is heavy. "[U]nless the balance of convenience of the parties is strongly in favor of [the] defendant, the plaintiffs choice of forum should prevail." Id. (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The proper interests to be weighed in deciding whether to transfer a case under § 1404(a) are not limited to the three factors recited in the statute (i.e., the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses, and the interests of justice). Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995). Although there is "no definitive formula or list of the factors to consider" in a transfer analysis, the court in Jumara identified 12 interests "protected by the language of § 1404(a)." Id. Six of those interests are private:

[I] plaintiffs forum preference as manifested in the original choice; [2] the defendant's preference; [3] whether the claim arose elsewhere; [4] the convenience of the parties as indicated by their relative physical and financial condition; [5] 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 [6] 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). The other six interests are public in nature:

[7] the enforceability of the judgment; [8] practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive; [9] the relative administrative difficulty in the two fora resulting from court congestion; [10] the local interest in deciding local controversies at home; [II] the public policies of the fora; and [12] the familiarity of the trial judge with the applicable state law in diversity cases.

Id. at 879-80 (citations omitted). As the parties have not identified relevant factors beyond these 12 interests, I will balance the Jumara factors in deciding whether to exercise the discretion afforded me by § 1404(a).

         I. Plaintiff's Forum Preference

         This factor clearly weighs against transfer. The parties agree on that much. They disagree, however, about the amount of weight I should give this factor in conducting the balancing of interests called for by Jumara. Egnyte argues that Realtime's forum choice "is entitled to minimal deference." D.I. 11 at 11. Realtime contends that I should give its forum choice "paramount consideration." D.I. 14 at 4.[1]

         In Shutte, the Third Circuit held that "[i]t is black letter law that a plaintiffs choice of a proper forum is a paramount consideration in any determination of a transfer request" brought pursuant to § 1404(a), and that this choice "should not be lightly disturbed." 431 F.2d at 25 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The parties have not cited and I am not aware of any Third Circuit or United States Supreme Court case that overruled Shutte. Jumara cited Shutte favorably and reiterated Shutters admonition that "the plaintiffs choice of venue should not be lightly disturbed." Jumara, 55 F.3d at 879 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Thus, I agree with Realtime that binding Third Circuit law compels me to treat its forum choice as "a paramount consideration" in the § 1404(a) balancing analysis.

         Egnyte, however, asks me to ignore Shutte's unambiguous language (and Jumara's endorsement of Shutte) and instead give Realtime's forum choice "minimal weight" because (1) the District of Delaware is not Realtime's "home forum" or "home turf," D.I. 11 at 10-11; D.I. 15 at 1-2; and (2) the facts underlying the parties' dispute did not occur in Delaware, D.I. 11 at 10-11.

         Egnyte cites in support of its position certain opinions issued by district court and magistrate judges in the Third Circuit that appear to assign less weight to a plaintiffs forum choice when the forum is not the plaintiffs "home forum" or "home turf-that is, if the plaintiff has limited or no facilities, operations, or employees in the forum-and/or when the facts giving rising to the lawsuit did not occur in the plaintiffs selected forum. See D.I. 11 at 10-11; D.I. 15 at 1-2 (citations omitted). I am not, however, persuaded that these opinions are consistent ...


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