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RAH Color Technologies LLC v. Adobe Systems Inc.

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

May 28, 2018




         RAH Color Technologies LLC has sued Adobe Systems Inc. for infringement of four U.S. patents that RAH owns. All of the patents are for systems "for distributing and controlling color reproduction at multiple sites." RAH has licensed the technology covered by its patents to manufacturers of imaging equipment and providers of software and services. It contends that Adobe makes and sells software that employs color management techniques that infringe various claims of the patents.

         Adobe has moved to transfer the case to the Northern District of California 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). There is no question that this suit "might have been brought" in the proposed transferee district, as Adobe's headquarters is located there and infringing activity is alleged to have taken place there.

         To obtain a transfer under section 1404(a), Adobe must demonstrate that the proposed transferee forum is "clearly more convenient" than RAH's chosen forum. 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.'" In 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) where events material to the lawsuit took place, (3) 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.

         RAH did not file this suit in its home forum. RAH has only one office, located in Virginia, where its sole owner lives. Because it sued outside its home forum, RAH's choice of this district is entitled to minimal deference:

When 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.

Piper Aircraft, 454 U.S. at 255-56.

         b. Where events material to the lawsuit occurred

         The events underlying the litigation have no significant relationship with this district. Infringement is claimed to have occurred here, in that the alleged infringing products are sold in this district and some training regarding use of the products is alleged 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.

         No events of significance took place in this district. The patented products and methods appear to have been developed in locations other than this district. And the materials provided by Adobe reflect that the accused products were developed in the Northern District of California, the proposed transferee ...

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