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Medline Industries, Inc. v. C.R. Bard, Inc.

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

April 4, 2018

MEDLINE INDUSTRIES, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
C.R. BARD, INC., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L. ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Medline Industries, Inc. (“Medline”) alleges that Defendant C.R. Bard, Inc., (“Bard”) has infringed on Medline's patents for a single-layer Foley urinary catheter tray. Bard, who has already answered the complaint in this case, now moves to transfer venue to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Although the Court finds that the public and private factors slightly favor litigating this case in the Northern District of Georgia, Bard has failed to show that transfer is clearly warranted. The Court, therefore, denies the motion to transfer.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Bard is a Delaware corporation headquartered in New Jersey. Bard Medical Division (“BMD”) is a division of Bard located in Covington, Georgia. Medline is an Illinois corporation headquartered in the Northern District of Illinois. Both Medline and Bard market and sell a urinary catheter system to hospitals throughout the United States. Both companies' catheter systems use a single tray design. Medline developed this type of system first and patented the design. Bard subsequently developed and sold their single tray system. Medline has now filed three suits in the Northern District of Illinois alleging patent infringement against Bard. This suit is the third in that series and the only one Bard seeks to transfer to a different venue.

         ANALYSIS

         Section 1404(a) states that the Court may transfer venue to another district “for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice.” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For transfer to be appropriate, Bard must demonstrate that “(1) venue is proper in this district; (2) venue is proper in the transferee district; (3) the transferee district is more convenient for both the parties and the witnesses; and (4) transfer would serve the interest of justice.” Gueorguiev v. Max Rave, LLC, 526 F.Supp.2d 853, 856 (N.D. Ill. 2007). Bard bears the burden of demonstrating that transfer is “clearly more convenient.” Heller Fin. Inc. v. Midwhey Powder Co., 883 F.2d 1286, 1293 (7th Cir. 1989) (quoting Coffey v. Van Dorn Iron Works, 796 F.2d 217, 219-20 (7th Cir. 1986)). The transfer decision is committed to the Court's sound discretion because the “weighing of factors for and against transfer necessarily involves a large degree of subtlety and latitude.” Coffey, 796 F.2d at 219.

         1. Proper Venue

         The Court addresses first where venue is proper. Bard has answered the complaint here already, waiving any right to challenge venue. It did so although Medline filed this case after the Supreme Court issued its ruling in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Grp. Brands LLC, ___U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1514, 1520, 197 L.Ed.2d 816 (2017), which established more limited venue in patent cases than the Federal Circuit had previously allowed. It is possible that venue would not be proper in the Northern District of Illinois had Bard raised the issue, but Bard still does not contest venue here so the Court finds that Bard has waived this issue and venue is therefore proper.

         Next, venue is also proper in the Northern District of Georgia, where Bard seeks to have this case transferred. The division of Bard responsible for developing the allegedly infringing product is headquartered in that district, and many of the decisions regarding the production, distribution, and sale of the product occurred in the district. Also Medline does not dispute that venue would be proper in the Northern District of Georgia.

         2. Convenience of the Parties and Witnesses

         In evaluating the convenience of the parties and witnesses, the Court considers “(1) the plaintiff's choice of forum; (2) the situs of material events; (3) the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the convenience of the witnesses; and (5) the convenience to the parties of litigating in the respective forums.” Brandon Apparel Grp., Inc. v. Quitman Mfg. Col., 42 F.Supp.2d 821, 833 (N.D. Ill. 1999).

         First, courts typically give a plaintiff's choice of forum substantial deference, particularly where the chosen forum is the plaintiff's home forum. Id. This deference is lessened “where the plaintiff's chosen forum is not the plaintiff's home forum or has relatively weak connections with the operative facts giving rise to the litigation.” Body Sci. LLC. v. Boston Sci. Corp., 846 F.Supp.2d 980, 992 (N.D. Ill. 2012). In this case, the chosen forum is plaintiff's home forum- Medline is an Illinois corporation with its headquarters in the Northern District of Illinois. Bard, on the other hand, has minimal connections with this District. Its primary connection with this District is that is sells the SureStep tray here and in the rest of the country. “Sales alone are insufficient to establish a substantial connection to the forum if the defendant's goods are sold in many states.” Anchor Wall Sys., Inc. v. R & D Concrete Prods., Inc., 55 F.Supp.2d 871, 874 (N.D. Ill. 1999). Bard also has a subsidiary in this District; however, that subsidiary has nothing to do with the catheter trays at issue.

         Bard designed its catheter tray at the BMD facility in Covington, Georgia. Bard makes the marketing and distribution decisions about the tray there as well. Though Bard's national sales director lives in Nashville, Tennessee, Covington is the home base for the team primarily responsible for marketing the tray as well as the engineering team that developed the SureStep tray. And while the trays are manufactured in Mexico, they are sterilized at the Covington facility before being distributed to customers. Therefore, while the Northern District of Illinois is Medline's home district, it has no greater connection to the facts at issue than any other district. This means that the Court should afford Medline's choice of forum “some, but not substantial, deference.” Hanley v. Omarc, Inc., 6 F.Supp.2d 770, 775 (N.D. Ill. 1998) (giving some but not all deference to plaintiff's choice of forum because Illinois lacked a connection to the underlying case). Therefore, this factor weighs only slightly against transfer.

         Second, the Court looks at the situs of material events. In patent cases, the alleged infringer's principal place of business is generally a focus of the Court's attention, because it is often where the activities and documents that led to development and marketing of the infringing product are located. Body Sci., 846 F.Supp.2d at 993; Habitat Wallpaper and Blinds, Inc. v. K.T. Scott Ltd. P'ship, 807 F.Supp. 470, 474 (N.D. Ill. 1992). This does not mean that patent defendants are entitled to an automatic transfer of venue to their home district; rather, it is one factor the Court considers in its analysis. See Abbott Labs. v. Church & Dwight, Inc., No. 07 C 3428, 2007 WL 3120007, at *3 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 23, 2007). If infringing products are sold in the transferor district, this does not favor transfer. Carson v. Flexible Foam Prods., Inc., No. 08-cv-095-bbc, 2008 WL 1901727, at *2 (W.D. Wis. Apr. 23, 2008). However, this is less important when the product is sold nation-wide, and not specifically or primarily sold in the transferor district. SRAM Corp. v. ...


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