Hot Potato: Case Is Transferred from Florida to California and Then Back to Florida

December 12, 2011

Plaintiff filed a patent infringement action in the Middle District of Florida. Defendants filed a motion to transfer the case to the Eastern District of California. Defendants emphasized in its transfer motion that the Eastern District of California was clearly more convenient than the Middle District of Florida. Ten months after the motion was filed, the Middle District of Florida concluded that the Eastern District of California was indeed a more convenient forum and therefore transfer was appropriate. "The Middle District of Florida emphasized that the transfer was necessary to promote the interests of justice, because the alleged acts of infringement and the uncontested evidence of record demonstrates that the vast majority of the activities relating to the alleged infringement took place and around the Eastern District of California."

When the case arrived in the Eastern District of California, Plaintiff filed a motion to re-transfer the case back to the Middle District of Florida. Although the parties did not argue in the Middle District of Florida that the Eastern District of California lacked personal jurisdiction over certain of the defendants, the plaintiff now moved to retransfer the case because the Eastern District of California did not have personal jurisdiction over two of the defendants.

The district court began by noting that "[t]he transfer by the Middle District of Florida under Section 1404(a) is only appropriate if the Eastern District of California is a 'district in which this action might have been brought.' 28 U.S.C. ยง 1404(a)." Accordingly, the district court then turned to the threshold question as to whether this action could have been brought in the transferee district. As part of this determination, it must be clear that the transferee court must have jurisdiction over all of the defendants in the transferred complaint.

The district court in the Eastern District of California concluded that personal jurisdiction over two of the defendants was lacking. As a result, the district court in the Eastern District of California concluded that "[s]ection 1404(a) does not allow a court to transfer a suit to a district which lacks personal jurisdiction over each of the defendants, even if the defendant consents to suit." As a result of the lack of personal jurisdiction, the district court determined that Supreme Court precedent required a re-transfer of the action. "Where Defendants do not meet their burden of a motion to transfer, Supreme Court precedent mandates that the court retransfer this case to the district from whence it came."

The district court did note that it was loathe to transfer the case back to the Middle District of Florida but found that this case was appropriate for retransfer because defendants simply could not meet their burden of proving that the action could originally have been brought in the Eastern District of California. "[T]his is loathe to upset the determination of the Middle District of California and ping pong this case across the country. Nonetheless, Defendants cannot carry their burden of proving this case 'could have been brought' in the Eastern District of California against all of the defendants. No one disputes that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over all the defendants, and this action could not have been brought in this district."

Accordingly, the district court retransferred the case back to the Middle District of Florida.

Pacific Coast Marine Windshields v. Malibu Boats, Case No. 1:11-cv-01594-LJO-BAM (E.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2011)

The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.