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Global Patent Holdings, LLC v. Green Bay Packers

April 23, 2008

GLOBAL PATENT HOLDINGS, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREEN BAY PACKERS, INC., NAPLETON ELMHURST IMPORTS, INC., D/B/A ED NAPLETON ACURA, ORBITZ WORLDWIDE, INC., PEAPOD, LLC, OFFICEMAX INC. AND CATERPILLAR INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles P. Kocoras, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on two motions filed by the parties. In the first, Plaintiff Global Patent Holdings, LLC ("Global Patent") seeks reassignment of another case to this court pursuant to Local Rule 40.4 on the basis that it is related to the instant case. The second is a motion by Defendants Green Bay Packers, Inc.; Napleton Elmhurst Imports, Inc.; Orbitz Worldwide, Inc.; Peapod, LLC; OfficeMax, Inc.; and Caterpillar, Inc. to stay this litigation during the pendency of a reexamination proceeding before the Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO"). For the following reasons, both motions are granted.

BACKGROUND

This case was initially filed by a company called Techsearch, LLC, on July 28, 2000. The complaint contained a claim of patent infringement against Defendants Internet Entertainment Group Inc., Ed Napleton Acura, Gregory Aharonian, and the Green Bay Packers in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271(a). At that time, Techsearch owned U.S. patent No.5,253,341, which claimed an improved method and apparatus for downloading compressed audio and visual data as well as other graphical information from a remote server to an end user station ("EUS") for the purpose of decompressing and displaying the data. In its complaint, Techsearch asserted that Defendants infringed its patent by downloading responsive data, including compressed audio/visual and graphical data, on their respective websites. Defendants were also accused of knowingly and intentionally inducing third parties to infringe Techsearch's patent in violation of 35 U.S.C. § 271(b) and (c).

Subsequently, an anonymous requester initiated a reexamination procedure of the patent before the PTO. Rather than keeping the case open while the reexamination ran its course, Techsearch requested and obtained dismissal of its complaint with leave to reinstate the case if the reexamination was resolved in its favor. Eventually, the Board of Patent Appeals cancelled the 16 claims of the original patent and declared a new claim, claim 17, patentable (U.S. Patent No. 5,253,341 C1, hereinafter referred to "the '341 patent").

According to the motion to reinstate, on January 25, 2005, Techsearch assigned the patent to Global Patent, its parent company. On August 8, 2007, Global Patent sued CDW Corporation and Motorola, Inc., in Global Patent Holdings v. CDW Corp.,case No. 07 C 4476. As Techsearch had asserted in the complaint in this case, Global Patent claimed CDW and Motorola infringed the '341 patent by downloading responsive data, including compressed audio/visual and graphical data, on their respective websites. The downloading method utilized both an EUS and a server, with asymmetric processing power capacities and involving compression and inverse decompression techniques requiring less processing power. Furthermore, the complaint argued that these two defendants had knowingly and intentionally induced third parties to infringe the '341 patent. The case was assigned to Judge Norgle. Thus far, CDW and Motorola have answered the complaint and moved to stay the proceedings pending the reexamination that has also prompted the pending motion to stay in this case. No discovery has yet been conducted in the case before Judge Norgle.

On September 10, 2007, Techsearch moved to reinstate the case before this court. We granted Techsearch's motion on October 11 and permitted it to file an amended complaint that substituted Global Patent as the plaintiff, dropped Defendants Aharonian and Internet Entertainment, and added six new defendants. Global Patent then moved to reassign case no. 07 C 4476 to this court on the ground that it is related to this case. Shortly thereafter, Defendants moved to stay the proceedings in this case pending the outcome of the second reexamination procedure before the PTO.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Reassign

In the Northern District of Illinois, cases are assigned to a district judge at random. LR 40.1. This system can lead to situations in which two or more cases that are closely related will be assigned to different judges. In such an instance, LR 40.4 provides a mechanism whereby parties can request that the later-filed case be reassigned to the judge who is presiding over the lower-numbered, and thus earlier-filed, case. The rule promotes efficient use of judicial resources by minimizing duplication of effort on cases that have a great deal in common. To obtain reassignment of a case, a movant must first show that the case to be reassigned is related to a previously filed case and then demonstrate that reassignment would promote efficient use of judicial resources. Global Patent invokes LR 40.4 in support of its request for reassignment. CDW is the only defendant to oppose the reassignment.

As a threshold matter, CDWchallenges the premise that this case is properly considered earlier-numbered and thus first-filed. In the 2003 dismissal, we granted Techsearch leave to reinstate this case if it prevailed in the patent reexamination. According to CDW, Global Patent previously disavowed any connection to Techsearch, and CDW insists that only a case with Techsearch as the plaintiff can have the benefit of the 2000 filing date.

To support its contention that Global Patent is a stranger to this case, CDW points to a declaratory judgment action filed in the District of Nevada in 2007. In a declaration filed to dispute personal jurisdiction in Nevada, Anthony O. Brown, president of Global Patent, stated that Global Patent had no "current ownership or other interest in, or an affiliation with, TechSearch." Contrary to CDW's position, the declaration also states that in January 2000, Techsearch was both a subsidiary of Global Patent and the owner of the '341 patent.*fn1 In addition, on January 25, 2005, Techsearch LLC, at the time still a subsidiary of Global Patent, assigned the '341 patent to its parent Global Patent. The ownership of the patent resulting from the assignment would make Global Patent the real party in interest for purposes of this case as it is presently postured. Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(a). Furthermore, CDW's argument ignores the fact that Techsearch, not Global Patent, moved to reinstate the case on September 10, 2007. Global Patent was substituted as the plaintiff only after the case had been reinstated by the originally filing plaintiff. Thus, this case is the earlier filed, and if the requirements of LR 40.4 are satisfied, the case before Judge Norgle should be reassigned to this court.

A. Factors Pertaining to Relatedness

To be deemed related, two cases must satisfy at least one of the four criteria laid out in Rule 40.4(a): the cases share some issues of fact or law; they involve the same property; each grows out of the same transaction or occurrence; or they involve one or more of the same classes if the motion is made in the context of multiple ...


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