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Illinois Computer Research, LLC v. Harpercollins Publishers

November 22, 2010

ILLINOIS COMPUTER RESEARCH, LLC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS, INC., HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS, LLC, RANDOM HOUSE, INC., AND SIMON & SCHUSTER, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendants HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Random House, Inc., and Simon & Schuster, Inc. move to transfer venue to the Southern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Based on the Court's review of the relevant factors, the Court, in its discretion, grants Defendants' motion to transfer.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Illinois Computer Research, LLC ("ICR") is an Illinois limited liability company that was formed on July 30, 2007. (R. 1-1, Compl. ¶ 1; R. 29, Davis Decl., Ex. 2.) Its sole place of business is located at 1016 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois. (Id.) Defendant HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. is a Delaware corporation having its principal place of business at 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendant HarperCollins Publishers, LLC is a Delaware limited liability company having its principal place of business at 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York. (Id. ¶ 3.) Defendant Random House, Inc. is a New York corporation having its principal place of business at 1745 Broadway, New York, New York. (Id. ¶ 4.) Defendant Simon & Schuster, Inc. is a New York corporation having its principal place of business at 51 West 52nd Street, New York, New York. (Id. ¶ 5.)

In its Complaint, ICR alleges that Defendants infringed U.S. Patent No. 7,111,252 ("the '252 patent") entitled "Enhancing Touch and Feel on the Internet," that the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") issued on September 19, 2006. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9.) ICR further alleges that the '252 patent relates to an apparatus and method for obtaining and reviewing excerpts from digital books for preview prior to purchase, but prevents the reader from obtaining and reviewing the entire book without purchasing it. (Id. ¶ 10.) In addition, ICR alleges that the HarperCollins Defendants have infringed the patent in suit in this judicial district and throughout the United States because its website reaches and instructs customers to buy and/or use HarperCollins' products and services in the manner specified in the asserted claims. (Id. ¶ 12.) ICR also alleges that Random House's and Simon & Schuster's infringing conduct occurred in this judicial district and throughout the United States because their websites reach and instruct customers to buy and use Random House and Simon & Schuster products and services. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 18.)

LEGAL STANDARD

"Congress has codified the doctrine [of forum non conveniens] and has provided for transfer, rather than dismissal, when a sister federal court is the more convenient place for trial of the action." Sinochem Int'l Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 430, 127 S.Ct. 1184, 167 L.Ed.2d 15 (2007); Hyatt Int'l Corp. v. Coco, 302 F.3d 707, 717-18 (7th Cir. 2002). More specifically, "[f]or the convenience of 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). Under Section 1404(a), the moving party bears the burden of establishing that (1) venue is 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 witnesses and is in the interest of justice. See Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted); Jarmillo v. DineEquity, Inc., 664 F.Supp.2d 908, 913 (N.D. Ill. 2009). "The weighing of factors for and against transfer necessarily involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude, and, therefore, is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219; see also Methode Elec., Inc. v. Delphi Auto. Sys., LLC, 639 F.Supp.2d 903, 907 (N.D. Ill. 2009) ("propriety of transfer is a case-by-case assessment").

Because the parties do not dispute that venue and jurisdiction are proper in both the Northern District of Illinois and the Southern District of New York, the Court turns to whether transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the interests of justice. In making this determination, the Court must look to both private and public interests. See Nalco Co v. Environmental Mgmt., Inc., 694 F.Supp.2d 994, 998 (N.D. Ill. 2010); Methode Elec., 639 F.Supp.2d 907. Private interests include: (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of the material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; and (4) the convenience to the witnesses and parties. See Nalco, 694 F.Supp.2d at 998. Factors traditionally considered in the public interest analysis, also known as the "interest of justice" factors, include the congestions of the respective court dockets, prospects for a speedy trial, and the courts' familiarity with the applicable law. See Coffey, 796 F.2d at 221; Jaramillo, 664 F.Supp.2d at 915. District courts may make any necessary factual findings when determining venue issues. See In re LimitNone, LLC, 551 F.3d 572, 577 (7th Cir. 2008).

ANALYSIS

I. Private Interests -- Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses

A. Plaintiff's Choice of Forum and Location of Material Events

Normally, a plaintiff's choice of forum is entitled to deference, but that deference is lessened if the forum does not have a significant relationship to the material events leading to the litigation. See Heller Fin., Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1294 (7th Cir. 1989); Gueorguiev v. Max Rave, LLC, 526 F.Supp.2d 853, 857 (N.D. Ill. 2007) (citing In re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003)). In other words, courts give less deference to a plaintiff's choice of forum when another forum has a stronger relationship to the dispute. See Jaramillo, 664 F.Supp.2d at 914.

Here, ICR argues that the Northern District of Illinois is both its home forum and chosen forum, and thus this factor weighs against transfer to the Southern District of New York. ICR, however, does not point to any material events leading up to this litigation that occurred in the Northern District of Illinois except that the alleged infringing conduct occurred in this district and, indeed, throughout the United States via Defendants' websites. See Rabbit Tanaka Corp. USA v. Paradies Shops, Inc., 598 F.Supp.2d 836, 840 (N.D. Ill. 2009) (because alleged infringing conduct took place in numerous districts around the country, choice of forum not entitled to much weight). On the other hand, Defendants maintain that the relevant events leading up to this patent lawsuit occurred in the Southern District of New York, and therefore, the Court should not give ICR deference to its chosen forum. The Court agrees.

Defendants' principal places of business are all in New York, New York. In addition, Defendants have provided affidavits that the individuals involved in developing Defendants' websites are based in New York, the design of the websites -- that include the accused features -- occurred in New York, and that Defendants do not have servers located in the Northern District of Illinois relating to the accused functionality on their websites. Indeed, because "[p]atent-infringement suits typically revolve around the alleged infringer's activities, employees, and documents,"*fn1 see Methode Elec., 639 F.Supp.2d at 910, the Southern District of New York has a significant relationship to the material events. See MPH Tech. OY v. Zyxel Comm'cn Corp., No. 10 C 684, 2010 WL 2836734, at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 16, 2010) ("activities and business of the alleged infringer are the operative facts for a patent infringement case"); Cooper Bauck Corp. v. Dolby Lab., Inc., No. 05 C 7063, 2006 WL 1735282, at *5 (N.D. Ill. June 19, 2006) ("location of the infringer's principal place of business is often the critical and controlling consideration" because patent lawsuits "often focus on the activities of the alleged infringer, ...


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