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SITRICK v. DREAMWORKS L.L.C.

May 13, 2003

DAVID H. SITRICK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DREAMWORKS L.L.C., NEW LINE PRODUCTIONS, INC., NEW LINE HOME ENTERTAINMENT, INC., WARNER MUSIC GROUP, INC., WARNER BROS. RECORDS, INC., WARNER-ELEKTRA-ATLANTIC CORPORATION, AND WARNER HOME VIDEO, D/B/A WARNER REPRISE VIDEO DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David H. Coar, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, David H. Sitrick ("Sitrick"), brought this patent infringement action against seven defendants, DreamWorks L.L.C. ("DreamWorks"); New Line Productions, Inc. and New Line Home Entertainment, Inc. (collectively "New Line"); and Warner Music Group Inc., Warner Bros. Records, Inc., Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corporation, and Warner Home Video (collectively "Warner"). Sitrick alleges infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,553,864 and 6,425,825 ("patents in suit"). Before this court is defendants' motion, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (a), to transfer venue from the Northern District of Illinois to the Central District of California. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff, Sitrick, is an individual residing in Highland Park, Illinois. Sitrick is an inventor and owner of several patents relating to musical composition communications and display systems and the integration of electronic data representing an audio signal or visual image into a preexisting audiovisual work.

DreamWorks is a limited liability company organized under Delaware law, and has its principal offices in Glendale, California. DreamWorks is engaged in producing motion pictures and distributing and licensing prints of its films for exhibition throughout the United States. DreamWorks also distributes, leases and sells copies of its films on video tape and DVD.

Among the motion pictures produced and distributed by DreamWorks are Shrek and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron ("Spirit"). The DVD versions of Shrek and Spirit include features known as "ReVoice Studio" and "Make a Movie," respectively. Those features allow purchasers, using a computer, to combine their own voice or images with pre-existing video images stored on the DVD.

The New Line defendants are New York corporations with places of business in New York and Los Angeles. Like DreamWorks, New Line produces motion pictures, distributes and licenses those pictures for movie theater exhibition, and also distributes and sells copies of its films on DVD and video tape throughout the United States. In December 2002, New Line began the distribution of the DVD version of Austin Powers in Goldmember ("Goldmember"). Like Shrek, Goldmember includes the "ReVoice Studio" feature that allows user created audio to be inserted into the movie in place of selected portions of the soundtrack of the movie.

The Warner defendants are, except for Warner Home Video, corporations formed under the laws of Delaware and New York. Three of the Warner defendants have principal places of business in New York City. All the Warner defendants have offices in California as well. Warner is engaged in the business of developing musical artists and distributing recorded musical works on CDs and DVDs. One such DVD, entitled Barelaked Nadies by the musical group Barenaked Ladies, includes the "ReVoice Studio" feature.

Sitrick alleges that the "ReVoice Studio" feature and the "Make a Movie" feature infringe the patents in suit. The selection, design, development and implementation of all four titles occurred mainly in California and partially in other United States locations and in the United Kingdom. Synchro Arts, a company in the United Kingdom, introduced and demonstrated the "ReVoice Studio" feature to DreamWorks, New Line, and Warner on different occasions in Los Angeles.

II. Standard

A motion to transfer is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404 (a). Under 1404(a), a federal district court may "for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. . . . transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1414 (a); Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986). Venue in patent infringement actions is controlled by 28 U.S.C. § 1400 (b), which provides "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."

A section 1404(a) transfer is appropriate only where "(1) venue was proper in the transferor district, (2) venue and jurisdiction would be proper in the transferee district, and (3) the transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and the witnesses as well as the interests of justice." United Air Lines, Inc. v. Mesa Airlines, Inc., 8 F. Supp.2d 796, 798 (N.D. Ill. 1998). Since determining whether transfer is appropriate "involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude," and is made on a case-by-case basis, it is therefore "committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219; Amoco Oil Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp., 90 F. Supp.2d 958, 959 (N.D. Ill. 2000).

To aid the trial judge in determining the final element of the ยง 1404(a) analysis, the party seeking to transfer venue "has the burden of establishing, by reference to particular circumstances, that the transfer forum is clearly more convenient" than the transferor court. Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20. In making a transfer determination, the court must consider both the private interest of the parties and the public interests of the Court. Medi USA v. Jobst Inst., Inc., 791 F. Supp. 208, 210 (N.D. Ill. 1992). Factors for the court to consider in assessing private interests include: (1) plaintiffs choice of forum, (2) the situs of material events, (3) the relative ease and access to sources of proof, (4) the convenience of the parties and (5) the convenience of the witnesses. Amoco Oil, 90 F. Supp.2d at 960. Public interest factors or interests of justice "relate to the court's familiarity with the applicable law, the speed at which the case will proceed to trial, and the desirability of resolving controversies in their ...


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