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Qurio Holdings, Inc. v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

February 9, 2015

QURIO HOLDINGS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
COMCAST CABLE COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

Qurio Holdings, Inc., which is headquartered in New Hampshire, has sued Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for infringement of three U.S. patents. The patents involve technology for distributing television programs to personal communication devices. Qurio originally also sued Comcast Corporation, but it dismissed its claims against that entity without prejudice. The Court will refer to the remaining defendant as Comcast.

Comcast has moved to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 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, 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). The plaintiff's choice of a forum, however, "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), at least in a case like Chicago, Rock Island, in which the plaintiff sued outside her home forum.

Comcast suggests that a plaintiff's choice of a forum is entitled to no weight if it is not the plaintiff's home or does not otherwise have a significant connection with the subject matter of the litigation. See Defs.' Mot. to Transfer at 12 ("Plaintiff's Choice of Forum Is Not Entitled to Deference"; "Plaintiff's choice of forum is simply one factor among many that should be considered") (internal quotation marks omitted). But that is not what the Seventh Circuit has said, and the Court does not understand the law this way. Piper Aircraft, a common law forum non conveniens case often cited as authority on section 1404(a) motions, 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. The patented products and methods appear to have been developed in North Carolina, and the patents were likewise prosecuted by attorneys located there. See Compl., Exs. A, B & C. And the materials provided by Comcast in support of its motion sufficiently reflect that the accused products were developed in the proposed transferee district, namely the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. This is a relevant factor in the analysis. See Acer Am. Corp., 626 F.3d at 1256.

Because this is not Qurio's home district and no material events took place here, its choice of this district is not entitled to significant weight in ...


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