United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.
Qurio Holdings, Inc. has sued DISH Network Corp. and DISH Network, LLC (collectively "DISH") for infringement of three U.S. patents. The patents involve technology for distributing television programs to personal communication devices. Although Qurio is headquartered in New Hampshire, it filed suit here in Chicago.
DISH, which is headquartered in Engelwood, Colorado (near Denver) has moved to transfer the case not to the District of Colorado but to the Northern District of California. DISH has filed its motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which provides 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... where it might have been brought[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).
To obtain a transfer under section 1404(a), the moving party must demonstrate that the proposed transferee forum is "clearly more convenient." Heller Fin., Inc. v. MidWhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989); Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986). "Unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.'" I n re Nat'l Presto Indus., Inc., 347 F.3d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)). "Where the balance of convenience is a close call, merely shifting inconvenience from one party to another is not a sufficient basis for transfer." Research Automation, Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 978 (7th Cir. 2010).
1. Convenience of the parties and witnesses
In evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses, a court considers (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) the situs of material events, (3) the relative ease of access to proof, (4) the parties' convenience, and (5) the witnesses' convenience in litigating in the respective forums. Amoco Oil Co. v. Mobil Oil Corp., 90 F.Supp.2d 958, 960 (N.D. Ill. 2000) ; see also Research Automation, 626 F.3d at 978.
a. Plaintiff's choice of forum
Courts ordinarily give substantial weight to the plaintiff's choice of a forum, particularly when it is the plaintiff's home forum. See In re Nat'l Presto Indus., 347 F.3d at 664 (plaintiff's choice "should rarely be disturbed"); cf. Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 255-56 (1981) (common law forum non conveniens doctrine). DISH says, however, that a plaintiff's choice of a forum is entitled to "little if any deference" if "none of the conduct occurred in [that] forum" or "if another forum bears a stronger relationship to the dispute." Defs.' Reply at 1. The first part of this contention is not that far off, at least in a case where the plaintiff has not chosen its home forum. The Seventh Circuit has said, in a case where the plaintiff sued outside her home forum, that the plaintiff's choice of forum "has minimal value where none of the conduct complained of occurred in the forum selected by the plaintiff...." Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co. v. Igoe, 220 F.2d 299, 304 (7th Cir. 1955) (internal quotation marks omitted). Minimal value, however, does not mean no value.
The second part of DISH's contention, however, is incorrect. Though the proposition that the plaintiff's choice of a forum is entitled to little deference if another forum has a stronger relationship to the dispute appears in some district court decisions, it finds no support in the Seventh Circuit's cases. The proposition cannot possibly be correct. If it was, it would mean that the plaintiff's forum choice gets deference only if the plaintiff picks the forum with the greatest connection to the dispute, and that the plaintiff's choice does not get deference even if the plaintiff has chosen its home forum. Neither of these is an accurate statement of the law, at least not in this Circuit.
Here Qurio has not chosen its home forum. That reduces the amount of deference given to Qurio's choice, but it does not eliminate it entirely. Piper Aircraft, a common law forum non conveniens case cited by DISH and often cited on the section 1404(a) question, does not say that the plaintiff's choice is entitled to no deference if it is not the plaintiff's home. Rather, it says (speaking of a non-U.S. plaintiff) that "[w]hen the home forum has been chosen, it is reasonable to assume that this choice is convenient. When the plaintiff is foreign, however, this assumption is much less reasonable. Because the central purpose of any forum non conveniens inquiry is to ensure that the trial is convenient, a foreign plaintiff's choice deserves less deference." Id. at 255-56. Less deference does not mean no deference.
b. Situs of material events
The events underlying the litigation have no relationship with this district. Infringement is claimed to have occurred here, but given the products at issue, this does not differentiate this district from any other federal district. See In re Acer Am. Corp., 626 F.3d 1252, 1256 (Fed. Cir. 2010) ("[T]he sale of an accused product offered nationwide does not give rise to a substantial interest in any single venue."). There is no basis to say that the degree of infringement in this district is more significant than in other districts generally, or in the proposed transferee district in particular.
Qurio's attorneys in this lawsuit are located here, but it does not argue that this is a relevant factor. Though the Court can imagine a case where it might be, this is not such a case; reliance on this factor would permit a plaintiff in a patent infringement suit to pick its venue by its choice of attorneys.
No events of significance took place in this district. First, the patented products and methods appear to have been developed in North Carolina, and the patents were likewise prosecuted by ...