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Puroon, Inc. v. Midwest Photographic Resource Center, Inc.

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

November 1, 2016

Puroon, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Midwest Photographic Resource Center, Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          John Z. Lee United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Puroon, Inc. (“Puroon”) has sued Defendant Midwest Photographic Resource Center, Inc. (“Midwest”), alleging claims under Illinois law for unfair business practices and unfair competition, fraud, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, tortious interference with prospective business advantage, and misappropriation of trade secrets. Midwest seeks to transfer venue to the Eastern District of Missouri under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons stated herein, the Court denies Midwest's motion to transfer.

         Factual Background

         Puroon is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Chicago, Illinois. Compl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1. The company was incorporated in 2012 by Hyunju Song, who is a “product designer and developer of home goods and furnishings.” Id. at ¶ 6. Song also resides in Chicago, Illinois. See Compl., Ex. A.

         In 2013, Song developed a product for Puroon called the “Magical Memory Book.” Compl. ¶¶ 7-8. The Memory Book “combine[s] the functional aspect[s]” of a photo album, scrapbook, and frame into a single product. Id. at ¶ 7. “A user may keep pictures and clippings inside the Memory Book” while selecting “favorite photographs to display on the outside” by means of an “interchangeable outside view made possible through magnetic openings.” Id.

         In November 2014, Song contacted Midwest to ask whether Midwest would be interested in manufacturing or prototyping the Memory Book for Puroon. Id. at ¶ 9; Daniel Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 15-1. Midwest is a Missouri corporation with its principal place of business in St. Peters, Missouri. Compl. ¶ 5. It has two co-owners, Michael Daniel and Cara Daniel, and it has a total of seven employees. Daniel Decl. ¶¶ 2-3. Midwest sells its products at its physical location in St. Peters, Missouri, and it also takes orders online and at tradeshows. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8.

         Song's contact with Midwest in November 2014 consisted of telephone and e-mail communications with Midwest's Operations Manager, Tim Gau. Compl. ¶ 9, Ex. 2; Daniel Decl. ¶ 9. During these communications, Song sent Gau a Nondisclosure Agreement in connection with their negotiations over the Memory Book. Compl. ¶ 10. Gau signed the Nondisclosure Agreement and returned it to Song on Midwest's behalf. Id. Around this time, Gau also put Song in touch with a person named Sae Kim to discuss further details regarding the manufacture of the Memory Book. Id. According to Puroon, Gau represented to Song that Kim was a co-owner of Midwest. Id. After these communications with Gau in November 2014, Song “spent the next several months discussing the prototyping of the Memory Book over the phone and via an online messaging app” with Kim. Id. at ¶ 11.

         In March 2015, Song and Kim arranged an in-person meeting in South Korea. Id. During that meeting, Kim requested payment of $1, 000 in U.S. currency in exchange for ten prototypes of the Memory Book. Id. Song sent a wire payment in compliance with Kim's instructions. Id. Over the following three months, Song asked Kim several times about the status of the prototypes, but no conforming prototypes were made available to her. Id. at ¶ 12. Instead, Puroon alleges, Kim “‘accidentally' sent” two prototypes to “an album supplier along with some of his other product samples in July 2015.” Id. at ¶ 13. To date, Song has not received any conforming prototypes from Kim or Midwest, and her $1, 000 payment has not been refunded. Id. at ¶ 15.

         Around December 2015, Midwest began retailing a Professional Matted Display Case (“the Display Box”). Id. at ¶ 16. The interior of the Display Box “holds numerous photograph mats for storing pictures, ” while its exterior displays a selected photograph in an “inter-changeable outside view” featuring “embedded magnets.” Id. at ¶ 17. Puroon claims that Midwest created the Display Box by copying Song's Memory Book without her permission in violation of the Nondisclosure Agreement that the parties signed in November 2014. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 19, 36.

         Legal Standard

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a district court may transfer a civil case to another district “[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Transfer under § 1404(a) is appropriate when “(1) venue is proper in both the transferor and transferee court; (2) transfer is for the convenience of the parties and witnesses; and (3) transfer is in the interests of justice.” Coffey v. Van Doren Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986). In ruling on a motion to transfer venue, a court must consider the burdens that transfer would place on each party and must engage in a “case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.” Research Automaton, Inc. v. Schrader-Bridgeport Int'l, Inc., 626 F.3d 973, 977 (7th Cir. 2010).

         Analysis

         I. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses

         Midwest has moved to transfer this case to the Eastern District of Missouri pursuant to § 1404(a). The parties do not dispute that either the Northern District of Illinois or the Eastern District of Missouri would be a proper venue for this lawsuit. Thus, the Court begins by considering the ...


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