UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
March 6, 2012
BRIGHTON COLLECTIBLES, INC., A
RK TEXAS LEATHER MFG., INC. D/B/A TEXAS LEATHER MANUFACTURING, A TEXAS CORPORATION, ET AL.,
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. District Judge
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE [Doc. No. 106]
On February 4, 2010, Plaintiff Brighton Collectibles, Inc., ("Plaintiff") filed its original complaint against RK Texas Leather Mfg., Inc. ("Texas Leather") and unknown Doe defendants. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff's complaint asserts a claim of copyright infringement. Id. On December 6, 2010, Texas Leather filed a third party complaint against K&L Imports, Inc.; NHW Inc. d/b/a Sensetrading Co.; YK Trading, Inc.; JC NY; Joy Max Trading, Inc.; AIF Corporation d/b/a Global Time International, Lucky-7 International; and Time World. (Doc. No. 17.) On February 28, 2011, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") against each of Texas Leather's above named suppliers. (Doc. No. 51.) On November 30, 2011, Defendants K&L Imports, Inc., NHW, Inc., and Joy Max Trading, Inc. filed a motion to transfer this action to the Central District of California. (Doc. No. 106.) On December 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. (Doc. No. 112.) On January 4, 2012, Defendant filed a reply. (Doc. No. 115.) The hearing set for March 9, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. before Judge Battaglia is hereby VACATED as this Court finds this motion appropriate for submission on the papers without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion to transfer venue and is hereby DENIED. Defendants' request for judicial notice*fn1 is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that at least seventeen different Texas Leather products infringed on Plaintiff's existing copyrights and trade dress with respect to similar wallets, handbags, and other fashion accessories. (Doc. No. 1.) On February, 24, 2010, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Related Cases to provide notice that several other cases on file in this Court also involved Brighton Collectibles, Inc. as a plaintiff alleging infringement of intellectual property rights by the sale of fashion accessories similar to those sold by Brighton. (Doc. No. 3.) In Plaintiff's FAC filed on February 28, 2011, Plaintiff reasserted the claims originally made against Texas Leather against each of the third party defendants named in Texas Leather's third party complaint. (Doc. No. 51.) On March 15, 2011, this case was transferred from Judge Marilyn L. Huff to Judge Anthony J. Battaglia. (Doc. No. 56.)
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), "for the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." A district court has discretion "to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an 'individual- ized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness.'" Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000), citing Stewart Org. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988). To transfer a case pursuant to section 1404(a) "requires two findings -- that the district court is one where the action 'might have been brought' and that the 'convenience of parties and witnesses in the interest of justice' favor transfer." Hatch v. Reliance Ins. Co., 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir. 1985).
Section 1404(a) "partially displaces the common law doctrine of forum non conveniens." Decker Coal Co. v Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986). Accordingly, in deciding motions to transfer, courts "should consider private and public interest factors affecting the convenience of the forum." Id.; see Piper Aircraft Co. v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 241 (1981). The party seeking transfer "must make a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the plaintiff's choice of forum." Decker Coal Co., 805 F.2d at 843. Courts typically consider private factors including "relative ease of access to sources of proof; availability of compulsory process for attendance of unwilling, and the cost of obtaining attendance of willing, witnesses; . . . and all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive." Id. In addition, courts also consider relevant public factors, such as court congestion and local interest. Id.
As set forth above, the party seeking transfer "must make a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the plaintiff's choice of forum." Decker Coal Co., 805 F.2d at 843. "[U]nless the balance of factors is strongly in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff's choice of forum should rarely be disturbed." Securities Investor Protection Corp. v. Vigman, 764 F.2d 1309, 1317 (9th Cir. 1985). Upon review of the parties arguments and moving papers, the Court finds the Defendants' motion fails to establish that transfer would be in the interest of justice for several reasons.
First, Defendants' allegations that Plaintiff engaged in forum shopping are not persuasive. Plaintiff has filed several related suits in the Southern District of California. (Doc. No. 3.) In fact, many of the exact same copyrighted designs at issue in this case were at issue in the Related Cases. (Doc. No. 3.) In at least two instances, this Court has denied similar motions to transfer suits also involving Brighton's copyright infringement claims to the Central District. See Brighton Collectibles, Inc. v. Pedre Watch Company, Case No. 11-00637 (Pedre); Brighton Collectibles, Inc. v. Bi-Lo, LLC, Case No. 07 CV-1073 (Bi-Lo). Since the filing of the instant case, Plaintiff has filed at least one other related case in the Southern District involving a copyrighted design, which is also at issue in the instant case. See Brighton Collectibles, Inc. v. Winston Brands, et. al., Case No. 11-CV-02191. Defendants argue that related Central District cases,*fn2 which were filed more than eleven years ago, have more Brighton copyright designs in common with the instant case than any of the Brighton cases filed in the Southern District. (Doc. No. 114, Exhibit A.) The Court finds Defendants' argument unpersuasive since most of the Brighton copyright designs at issue in the instant case have also been at issue in at least one of the Related Cases in the Southern District. (Doc. No. 3.) Furthermore, Defendant fails to acknowledge that several Brighton copyright designs*fn3 at issue in the instant case were not at issue in any of the named Central District cases. (Doc. No. 114, Exhibit A.) A plaintiff's choice of forum receives minimal consideration only if "operative facts have not occurred within the forum and the forum has no interest in the parties or subject matter[.]" Lou v. Belzberg, 834 F.2d 730, 739 (9th Cir. 1987). Defendants, however, concede that venue is proper in any district where confusion about Plaintiff's product allegedly occurred. (Doc. No. 106, at 5.) Furthermore, Defendants admit that sales of both Brighton's products, and of the allegedly infringing products, have taken place in the Southern District. Therefore, at least some operative facts have occurred in the Southern District.
Second, Defendants have not demonstrated that the private factors weigh in favor of transfer. "The party seeking transfer cannot rely on vague generalizations as to the convenience factors. The moving party is obligated to identify the key witnesses to be called and to present a generalized statement of what their testimony would include." Florens Container v. Cho Yang Shipping, 245 F.Supp. 2d 1086, 1093 (N.D. Cal. 2002). Moving Defendants fail to provide a generalized statement as to the content of the key witnesses testimony beyond a single claim that four of Brighton's witnesses "can testify to the design of its disputed intellectual property." (Doc. No. 106, at 8.) Similarly, Defendants have not demonstrated why the Central District would be more convenient than the Southern District for the six Defendants headquartered in Texas or the one Defendant headquartered in New Jersey. Although relevant evidence may be currently located in the Central District, Defendants make no showing that this evidence cannot be easily accessed in the Southern District. See Costco Wholesale Corp. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 472 F.Supp.2d 1183, 1195 (S.D. Cal. 2007) (denying transfer where a defendant did not "claim any difficulty in transferring documentary evidence from its Pennsylvania and Massachusetts offices to the Southern District.").
Finally, Defendants have not demonstrated that the relevant public factors weigh in favor of transfer. Defendants' argument that the Central District has a greater local interest in this case rests primarily on the fact that Defendant K&L, the alleged sole supplier of the infringing products and one of the nine named defendants, resides in the Central District. Plaintiff, however, has presented evidence that each of the allegedly infringing products was sold in the Southern District. Customers and Plaintiff's stores have a presence in this district and therefore presumably have an equally valid interest in the proper resolution of this case. Defendants' contention that the court congestion factor weighs in favor of transfer is not persuasive. "The key inquiry in docket congestion is 'whether a trial may be speedier in another court because of its less crowded docket.'" Costco Wholesale Corp., 472 F.Supp.2d at 1196. Defendants rely on a single statistic to support its contention that court congestion is greater in the Southern District. (Doc. No. 106, at 10.) However, Plaintiff's data shows several other statistics that suggest the Central District is more congested. (Doc. No. 112, at 23-24.) Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds that Defendants' motion fails to demonstrate that the interest of justice would be best served by transfer of venue.
Based upon the foregoing, the Defendants' motion to transfer venue, (Doc. No. 106), is DENIED and the Defendants' request for judicial notice, (Doc. No. 113), is GRANTED in part and DENIED in