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Preci-Dip, SA v. Tri-Star Electronics International

December 4, 2008

PRECI-DIP, SA, A SWISS CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TRI-STAR ELECTRONICS INTERNATIONAL, INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Ronald A. Guzmán

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Preci-Dip, SA ("Preci-Dip") has sued Tri-Star Electronics International, Inc. ("Tri-Star") for a declaration that Tri-Star's U.S. Patent No. 6,250,974 ("the '974 patent") is invalid and unenforceable or not infringed by plaintiff, and an order requiring Tri-Star to stop violating federal and state unfair competition laws. The case is before the Court on TriStar's motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer this case to the Central District of California. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion to dismiss.

Facts

Preci-Dip is Swiss a corporation that designs, manufactures and sells "cutting-edge interconnect components." (First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.) Tri-Star is a Delaware corporation that competes with Prec-Dip and owns the '974 Patent, titled "Hoodless Electrical Socket Contact." (Id. ¶¶ 3-5; id., Ex. A, '974 Patent.)

On January 25, 2006, Tri-Star sent a letter to Preci-Dip saying it "believe[d] PreciDip may be in violation of Tri-Star's reverse clip contact design" and asking Preci-Dip "to forward [its] patent and product samples" to Tri-Star for its review. (Mot. Dismiss, Ex. F, Letter from Acosta to Lehmann of 1/20/06.)

On February 8, 2006, Preci-Dip asked Tri-Star for a list of all of the patents it believed covered any Preci-Dip product as well as the Tri-Star products covered by each patent. (Id., Ex. G, Letter from Lehmann to Acosta of 2/8/06.)

On February 15, 2006, Tri-Star gave Preci-Dip the patent information it had requested and told Preci-Dip that the '974 Patent "cover[ed] all socket sizes [and] variations." (Id., Ex. H, Letter from Acosta to Lehmann of 2/15/06.)

On April 12, 2006, Tri-Star again wrote again to Preci-Dip saying: "Nearly two months have past [sic] since we provided our patent information to you. We are most anxious to hear back from you so that we can prevent or prclude [sic] possible future patent disputes or challenges." (Id., Ex. I, Letter from Acosta to Lehmann of 4/12/06.)

On April 26, 2006, Preci-Dip told Tri-Star that, after having reviewed the '974 Patent and Tri-Star's infringement allegations, it concluded that its products did not infringe the Patent. (Id., Ex. J, Letter from Lehmann to Acosta of 4/26/06.)

Apparently, the parties had no further communication or took any other action for the next eighteen months. (See Mot. Dismiss at 4; Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss at 2.)

On November 14, 2007, Tri-Star again wrote to Preci-Dip saying that Preci-Dip's "product most definitely violates [Tri-Star's] patent filings" and seeking to "open a dialogue with Preci-Dip . . . to resolve this issue between our two companies without a lengthy conflict." (Mot. Dismiss, Ex. K, Letter from Bouzek to Lehmann of 11/14/07.) Apparently, Preci-Dip did not respond to this letter. (See Mot. Dismiss at 4; Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss at 2.)

On June 26, 2008, Tri-Star filed a patent infringement suit against Preci-Dip in the District Court for the Central District of California ("California suit"). (Mot. Dismiss, Ex. C, Compl. California Suit.)

The next day, Tri-Star's attorneys sent the complaint to Preci-Dip's headquarters in Switzerland via certified mail and asked it to accept service voluntarily pursuant to The Hague Convention. (Id., Ex. D, Letter from Persson to Lehmann of 6/27/08.) Tri-Star also told Preci-Dip that it would serve Preci-Dip formally if it did not receive an acknowledgment of service from Preci-Dip within fourteen days. (Id.)

Preci-Dip did not acknowledge service within the fourteen-day window, so Tri-Star effected service on it pursuant to The Hague Convention on September 4, 2008. (Reply ...


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