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ANCHOR WALL SYSTEMS v. R & D CONCRETE PRODUCTS

June 30, 1999

ANCHOR WALL SYSTEMS, INC., A MINNESOTA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R & D CONCRETE PRODUCTS, INC., AN IOWA CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Castillo, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Anchor Wall Systems, Inc., a Minnesota corporation with its principal place of business in Minnetonka, Minnesota, sues R & D Concrete Products, Inc., an Iowa corporation with its principal place of business in Rock Island, Illinois, for patent infringement. Anchor moves for a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining R & D from further infringement of United States Patent No. 5,827,015 ("the '015 patent") and for damages under 35 U.S.C. § 284. R & D moves for change of venue, seeking to transfer the case from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division ("Northern District") in Chicago, Illinois to the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, Rock Island Division ("Central District") in Rock island, Illinois. After considering all the relevant factors, the Court grants R & D's motion for a change of venue.

RELEVANT FACTS

Although they play different roles, both Anchor and R & D are participants in the concrete block industry. Anchor licenses concrete block retaining wall products to block manufacturing companies. Anchor owns all interests in and rights to the '015 patent, entitled "Composite Masonry Block", which is directed to a configuration for concrete block used to construct retaining walls.

R & D is a small company with gross sales of approximately $3,000,000 a year and 12-20 employees. R & D manufactures and sells concrete-block landscaping products. R & D's distributors are located exclusively in the Midwest, including Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

On February 17, 1999 Anchor sued R & D alleging infringement of Anchor's '015 patent. Specifically, Anchor alleges that three of the composite masonry blocks that R & D manufactured, used, offered to sell, and/or sold infringe the '015 patent. Anchor further charges that R & D's infringement is willful and deliberate.

R & D denies most of the material allegations, claiming that none of its products fall within the scope of the claims of the '015 patent. R & D also filed a counterclaim, contending that the '015 patent is invalid, void, and unenforceable. In its counterclaim, R & D seeks a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability.

Currently before the Court is R & D's motion seeking a change of venue to the Central District of Illinois pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Both parties concede that venue is technically proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1391. The parties also acknowledge that personal jurisdiction and venue are proper in the transferee district because R & D's principal place of business is located in Rock Island, Illinois.

ANALYSIS

As the moving party, R & D bears the burden of showing that the forum should be changed. Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-220 (7th Cir. 1986). District courts have broad discretion in denying or granting a motion to transfer under Section 1404(a). Id. at 219.

Section 1404(a) states that "for the convenience of the 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). Thus, transfer of venue is proper when the moving party demonstrates that (1) venue is proper in the transferor district, (2) venue and jurisdiction are proper in the transferee district, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties, the convenience of the witnesses and the interest of justice. Avery Dennison Corp. v. FLEXcon Co., 42 U.S.P.Q.2d 1087, 1088, 1997 WL 106252 (N.D.Ill. 1997).

The first two elements, determining proper venue in patent infringement cases, are controlled by 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). This section states that "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." 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). The parties do not dispute that venue is proper in the Northern District, because R & D delivered three shipments of the allegedly infringing masonry blocks to distributors residing in this district. Similarly, venue is proper in the Central District because R & D resides there. The parties' dispute centers principally around the third factor.

The third element, the convenience and fairness of transfer under § 1404(a), is determined on a case by case basis by looking at the private interests of the parties and the public interest of the court. Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219. Private interests include: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the situs of material events, (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof in each forum including the court's power to compel the appearance of unwilling witnesses at trial and the costs of obtaining the attendance of witnesses, (4) convenience to the parties — specifically, their respective residences and abilities to bear the expense of trial in a particular forum. Von Holdt v. Husky Injection Molding Systems, Ltd., ...


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