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Craik v. Boeing Co.

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

August 15, 2013

RON CRAIK, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOEING COMPANY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ron Craik has brought this action for patent infringement against Defendant The Boeing Company ("Boeing"). Boeing has filed a Motion to Transfer Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), to the Western District of Washington. The matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for ruling.

BACKGROUND

This is a patent infringement action based on three patents owned by Craik and relating to the inspection and maintenance of aircraft equipment. Craik is a resident of Calgary, Alberta, Canada; and his company, Safe Air Solutions, is also based in Calgary. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-5.) According to the Complaint, Craik had interacted with Boeing on two occasions prior to this lawsuit: (1) Boeing invited Craik to attend Boeing's worldwide airline industry conference in Paris, France, in June 2005; and (2) Boeing sought Craik's advice in 2008 for how best to craft a comprehensive aircraft maintenance plan but soon after decided against conducting any formal business relations with Craik. ( Id. ¶¶ 5-6.)

In 2012, Boeing announced that it had developed, tested and validated a system to improve airline maintenance for commercial airplanes, which included the airline industry's first comprehensive radio frequency identification device ("RFID") and contact memory button ("CMB") technology. ( Id. ¶ 7.) Craik alleges that Boeing's RFID and CMB technologies directly infringe Craik's three patents that were issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office between 2006 and 2012. ( Id. ¶¶ 9-11.) Craik also charges Boeing with actively inducing the infringement of one of the three patents. ( Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) The patents are method claims and do not cover a particular apparatus or system.

Boeing's Commercial Aviation Services division, subsumed within its Commercial Airplanes business unit, was solely responsible for the work performed on the RFID system at issue. (Def. Mot. at 3.) Both of those Boeing entities are headquartered in Seattle, Washington; furthermore, all Boeing employees who ever participated in the RFID program live and work in Seattle or in the nearby suburb of Renton. ( Id. ) After developing the RFID system, Boeing tested the system on Boeing airplanes, first, in Victorville, California; then in Phoenix, Arizona; then in Los Angeles, California; and lastly in the greater Seattle area. Test documents, data, and equipment were all returned to the Seattle Boeing offices at the conclusion of the testing. ( Id. at 3-4.) The most significant testing done by Boeing was the temporary installation of the RFID system on three airplanes owned by the Seattle-based airline Alaska Airlines. ( Id. at 5.) With regards to this testing, all related equipment and information and all persons who participated in the testing and have knowledge of the testing were and are currently located in and around Seattle.[1] ( Id. at 5-6.) Fujitsu Limited (Fujitsu), headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, [2] and AeroInfo Systems (AeroInfo), a Boeing subsidiary headquartered in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada (approximately 120 miles north of Seattle), both assisted in the development and testing of the RFID system.[3] ( Id. )

LEGAL STANDARD

Boeing has moved to transfer this matter from the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago, IL) to the Western District of Washington (Seattle, WA) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which states, in pertinent part, that "[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...." Thus, the statutory requirements for granting a motion to transfer venue are present when: (1) venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee courts; (2) a transfer will better serve the convenience of the parties and the witnesses; and (3) a transfer will better serve the interest of justice. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); see Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219 (7th Cir. 1986). The moving party bears the burden of persuasion, and it is a considerable burden. Transferring to the movant's desired venue must be clearly more convenient than remaining in the Craik's initial choice of venue. Body Sci. LLC v. Boston Sci. Corp., 846 F.Supp.2d 980, 991 (N.D. Ill. 2012) (citing Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219-20). Adjudication of a motion to transfer is "committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Id. (quoting Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219). Consequently, a trial judge will decide a motion to transfer on a case-by-case basis, considering all relevant contextual circumstances within the appropriate statutory framework and making any factual findings that are necessary for determining venue issues. Id. (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) and In re LimitNone, LLC, 551 F.3d 572, 577 (7th Cir. 2008)).

ANALYSIS

Boeing contends that it has met its burden of demonstrating that transfer to the Western District of Washington is clearly more convenient than for this matter to remain in the Northern District of Illinois. Craik challenges the sufficiency of Boeing's argument and counters that this action should not be transferred.

Venue

The first factor to consider is venue. Boeing admits that venue is proper in both districts. Craik provides an extensive report on Boeing's history and presence in Chicago in order to illustrate that venue is proper in the Northern District of Illinois; however, Craik provides no reason why venue is not proper in the Western District of Washington.

Patent infringement actions "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." 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). Consequently, it is clear that venue is proper in both districts in this discussion for purposes of satisfying the first statutory element of 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

Convenience for the Parties and the Witnesses

The convenience of transferring forums for both the parties and the witnesses is heavily contested by the parties; indeed, convenience is the most important statutory component of a transfer analysis. Body Sci., 846 F.Supp.2d at 992 (citations omitted). In weighing the convenience ...


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