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Porritt v. Maclean Power Systerms

September 22, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge


I. Introduction and Background

Before the Court is Defendants MacLean Power Systems, L.P. ("MacLean Power") and MacLean-Fogg Company's ("MacLean-Fogg")Motion to Transfer to the Northern District of Illinois (Docs. 24 & 25) made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Defendants seek transfer to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Plaintiffs Christina Porritt and Lauren Bradley have filed a Response (Doc. 29). Defendants have filed a Reply (Doc. 30). For the reasons discussed, the Court finds that Defendants' motion should be GRANTED and the case TRANSFERRED to the Northern District of Illinois.

Plaintiffs filed a two-count Complaint (Doc. 2) against Defendants for violations of the false market patent statute, 35 U.S.C. § 292(a). Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated the statute by falsely advertising its square shank barbed staple on its website with an expired patent (Doc. 2 at ¶¶ 28-29,39-40). Plaintiffs assert in their Complaint that venue is proper in this district because Defendants "have conducted and continue to conduct business in this District through the sale of its products which are the subject matter of this Complaint to consumers throughout this District" (Id. at ¶ 10). Plaintiff Porritt is a resident of the Southern District of Illinois while Plaintiff Bradley is a resident of Columbia, Missouri, in the Western District of Missouri (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). Defendants MacLean Power and MacLean-Fogg are incorporated in the state of Delaware and have their principle place of business in Franklin Park and Mundelein, Illinois respectively, both of which are located in the Northern District of Illinois (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7).

II. Discussion

Defendants argue in their Motion to Transfer that this matter should be transferred to the Northern District of Illinois because the "center of gravity" of the case is located there. Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition, arguing that many witnesses reside closer to this district and that Defendants have failed to meet their heavy burden. Defendants have filed a reply arguing that Plaintiffs misrepresent the facts and law in their response.

A. Legal Standard

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a transfer of venue is permissible when doing so would be convenient for the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice. The transferee venue must also be a district where the case "might have been brought" originally. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The purpose of § 1404(a) "is to prevent the waste of time, energy and money and to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). A § 1404(a) transfer will be granted if the moving party establishes 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 and the witnesses and will promote the interest of justice. See Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 & n.3 (7th Cir. 1986). The statute does not, however, "indicate the relative weight to be accorded each [§ 1404(a)] factor." Id. at 220 n.3 ("[T]hese factors are best viewed as placeholders for a broader set of considerations, the contours of which turn upon the particular facts of each case."). However, the Court must analyze the "interest of justice" component separately from the convenience of parties and witnesses component under § 1404(a). Id. at 220-21 (citing Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622). The burden of establishing the greater "convenience" of the transferee forum lies with the movant. Id. at 220 (citations omitted). Ultimately, allowing a transfer of venue "is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Id. at 219 (collecting cases).

B. Analysis

1. Proper Venue

While Plaintiffs argue that venue is not disputed in this case, Defendants have pointed out in their reply that proper venue is disputed and that the issue takes up a large section of their Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 22 & 23).Plaintiffs' Complaint asserts that venue is proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 and 29 U.S.C. § 1395(a). 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) provides that a civil action founded on grounds other than strictly diversity may "be brought only in (1) a judicial district where any defendant resides, if all defendants reside in the same State, (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of the property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (3) a judicial district in which any defendant may be found" if there is no other district in which the claim may be brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c) provides that a defendant corporation "reside[s] in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced." In Illinois, which has multiple districts, a defendant corporation is "deemed to reside in any district in [the] State within which its contacts would be sufficient to subject it to personal jurisdiction if that district where a separate State." Further, under 29 U.S.C. § 1395(a), venue is proper in a proceeding to recover a pecuniary fine, penalty, or forfeiture "where it accrues or the defendant is found." A defendant is "found" for purposes of the statute where it has personal jurisdiction. Accord Waeltz v. Delta Pilots Retirement Plan, 301 F.3d 804, 809 (7th Cir. 2002).

Here, Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss based in part on improper venue due to lack of personal jurisdiction. Defendants argue that they lack any contacts with this District in order to meet the requirements for specific or general jurisdiction. Specific jurisdiction refers to jurisdiction in a suit "arising out of or related to defendant's contacts with the forum." GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund v. Goldfarb Corp., 565 F.3d 1018, 1023 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing RAR, Inc. v. Turner Diesel, Ltd., 107 F.3d 1272, 1277 (7th Cir. 1997); Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 414 n.8, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1872 n. 8, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984). General jurisdiction is found when a defendant has continuos and systematic general business within the forum. Id. (citing RAR, Inc., 107 F.3d at 1277).

As to MacLean-Fogg Company, Defendants argue that it does not sell to this district nor does it operate the website at issue in this case. MacLean-Fogg also does not advertise in this district nor does it conduct continuous business with the this district. Further, MacLean Power Systems, L.P. has no contacts with this district. MacLean Power neither sales nor advertises products in this district. While MacLean Power does operate a website which lists the square shank barbed staples at issue, the website is a passive site which only conveys information about the company and its products but does not allow a user to interact with the site by placing orders. Jennings v. AC Hydraulic A/S, 383 F.3d 546, 550 (7th Cir. 2004). As neither Defendant has any contacts with this district, Defendants have ...

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