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GEN 17, INC. v. SUN MICROSYSTEMS

February 11, 1997

GEN 17, INC., Plaintiff/Counterdefendant,
v.
SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC., and SUNSOFT, INC., Defendants/Counterplaintiffs.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALESIA

 Before the court is defendants/counterplaintiffs Sun Microsystems, Inc., and Sunsoft, Inc.'s, motion to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion to transfer.

 I. BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff/counterdefendant GEN 17, Inc. ("plaintiff"), is an Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Highland Park, Illinois. Defendants/counterplaintiffs Sun Microsystems, Inc. ("Sun"), a Delaware corporation, and Sunsoft, Inc. ("Sunsoft"), a California corporation and subsidiary of Sun (collectively, "defendants"), both share Mountain View, California, as their principal place of business. Plaintiff sued defendants in this court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, for the alleged infringement of United States Patent No. 4,956,809 ("the '809 patent"). Defendants filed counterclaims seeking, among other things, a declaratory judgment invalidating the '809 patent. Defendants have filed the present motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), requesting a change of venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

 II. DISCUSSION

 Section 1404(a) provides that "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." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The party seeking a transfer under section 1404(a) bears the burden of establishing that (1) venue is proper in the transferor district; (2) venue is proper in the transferee forum; and (3) the transfer is for the convenience of the parties and the witnesses and is in the interests of justice. Id.; Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986).

 The first two factors are not at issue in this case because the parties agree, as does this court, that venue is proper in both this court and the Northern District of California. Therefore, the only issue in dispute is whether a Section 1404(a) transfer to the Northern District of California is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. These factors are analyzed on an individualized, case-by-case basis. See Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20.

 A. Convenience of the litigants and witnesses

 In determining whether to transfer venue, the court seeks to promote both the private interests of the parties and the efficient administration of justice. North Shore Gas Co. v. Salomon, Inc., 896 F. Supp. 786, 791 (N.D. Ill. 1995) (citing Black v. Mitsubishi Motors Credit of America, Inc., 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11158, No. 94 C 3055, 1994 WL 424112, *2 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 10, 1994)). Private interests that may support a transfer include "the plaintiff's initial choice of forum; the relative ease of access to sources of proof; the availability of compulsory process for the attendance of unwilling witnesses, and the costs of obtaining the attendance of witnesses; and the situs of material events." Id. (citing Genden v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, 621 F. Supp. 780, 782 (N.D. Ill. 1985); Club Assistance Program, Inc. v. Zukerman, 598 F. Supp. 734, 736-37 (N.D. Ill. 1984)).

 While plaintiff argues that its selection of the Northern District of Illinois as its forum should be afforded substantial deference, it is "simply one factor among many to be considered." Club Assistance Program, 598 F. Supp. at 736. As for all other convenience factors, plaintiff claims they are equally balanced between the parties. The court agrees with part of plaintiff's analysis as to the convenience to the parties, in that transferring venue to California will merely shift the burden to litigate in a distant forum from the defendants to plaintiff. However, this court disagrees with plaintiff's analysis of the factors related to the location of witnesses and situs of material events, and finds that these factors are not equally balanced between the parties.

 1. Witnesses

 Although neither party has submitted an official witness list, defendants have identified eleven witnesses, all of whom reside in California, whom defendants will call to give testimony in response to plaintiff's infringement claim. In addition, defendants have identified nine third-party witnesses in California whom they will call to testify or who have documents relating to defendants' counterclaims. Plaintiff, on the other hand, has specifically identified at most four witnesses who reside in Illinois. The few other potential witnesses plaintiff has identified reside outside Illinois, and one actually resides in California. Any inconvenience to witnesses living outside both Illinois and California would be essentially the same whether they are required to travel to Illinois or California to testify. However, defendants have identified twenty witnesses who would be required to travel from California to Illinois if this case were tried here. Many of those witnesses may not be subject to compulsory process in Illinois. Moreover, recognizing the large disparity in potential witness travel costs to the parties, defendants have offered to pay the expenses for plaintiff's four Illinois witnesses to travel to California for trial.

 Because defendants have a substantially greater number of witnesses who would be inconvenienced by travelling to Illinois for trial than plaintiff has of witnesses who would be inconvenienced by travelling to California for trial; because many of defendants' numerous witnesses may not be subject to subpoena in Illinois; and because the travel expenses for defendants' witnesses to attend trial in Illinois would be significantly higher than the travel expenses for plaintiff's witnesses to attend ...


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