By Dabney Carr
Earlier this month, the Federal Circuit granted a petition for mandamus and directed the District Court of Delaware to transfer venue of a patent infringement suit filed against Link_A_Media Devices to the Northern District of California, even though Link_A is a Delaware corporation. In Re Link_A_Media Devices Corp., Misc. Docket No. 990 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 2, 2011) found here.
In a nutshell, the Federal Circuit held that the district court's "fundamental error" was holding that the patentee's choice of Delaware as the forum for its suit and Link_A's incorporation in Delaware were dispositive. Since Delaware was not the patentee's home forum, the Court ruled, its choice of forum was entitled to much less deference, and aside from Link_A's incorporation in Delaware, the forum had not ties to the dispute or either party. The plaintiff was a holding company located in Bermuda and both its operating affiliate and Link_A were located in Santa Clara, California. All of the identified witnesses, including the named inventors (who were employed by the plaintiff's affiliate) and the relevant documents, were located in California.
The Impact of Link_A on Delaware, California and East Coast Plaintiff-Patentees
Link_A extends the series of Federal Circuit decisions granting mandamus and ordering transfer of venue from the Eastern District of Texas, discussed here and here, to the District of Delaware. If the judges in Delaware apply Link_A as the Federal Circuit has dictated, the decision could result in a sharp reduction in the number of patent cases filed in Delaware. While Delaware is the state of incorporation of many corporations, far fewer corporations operate there. As a result, the convenience factors in the venue analysis will seldom favor venue in Delaware, except perhaps in the case of companies located in nearby venues such as New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Link_A is also likely to increase the number of cases filed in California, where many high technology businesses are headquartered. Given the crowded dockets in the federal district courts and the distance and expense of litigating in California, though, many East Coast-based plaintiff-patentees may seek an alternative venue that is closer to home.
The EDVA as an Alternative
The Eastern District of Virginia is a good candidate to be an alternative venue for plaintiffs seeking an East Coast forum. As we have written here, the speed of the Rocket Docket and the numerous significant patent verdicts in the Eastern District make it a favorable venue for plaintiff-patentees. While judges in the Eastern District of Virginia will not hesitate to transfer venue of a patent case with little connection to Virginia, many high technology companies have operations in Virginia which will make them subject to venue. Further, many defendants may prefer the Eastern District of Virginia's more efficient procedures and the experience of its judges in patent litigation. Time will tell whether the impact of Link_A will be to spread patent litigation which would otherwise be filed in Delaware to other Eastern venues, including Virginia.
Copyright © 2011, Troutman Sanders LLP
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