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Lightmed Corporation v. Ellex Medical Pty. Ltd.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 12, 2013

LIGHTMED CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
ELLEX MEDICAL PTY. LTD., et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM H. ORRICK, District Judge.

Defendant Ellex Medical seeks to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint for improper venue or, in the alternative, transfer to the Central District California for inconvenient venue. The Court GRANTS the motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. Section 1404(a).


The parties are competitors in the field of ophthalmic lasers used to treat secondary cataracts and glaucoma. Plaintiff LightMed Inc. is based in Taiwan and plaintiff LightMed (USA)-LightMed Inc.'s distributor-is based in San Clemente, California. Defendant Ellex Medical is an Australian company with a Minnesota-based United States subsidiary. LightMed alleges that in July and August 2013, Ellex's New York-based patent counsel sent "cease and desist" letters to three of LightMed's distributors seeking to enforce alleged patent rights. Dkt. No 1. ("Compl.") ¶ 9. One of the distributors is located in Florida, one in Illinois, and one (Barron Medical) in Chino Hills, California. LightMed alleges that the cease and desist letters misrepresented Ellex's legal rights and were sent in bad faith to interfere with plaintiffs' business relationships with the distributors and to unfairly compete with plaintiffs.


28 U.S.C. Section 1391(b)(1) provides that a civil action may be brought in "a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located." Section 1391 then defines residence for business entities, stating that "an entity with the capacity to sue and be sued in its common name under applicable law, whether or not incorporated, shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). Where there are several federal judicial districts within a single state, as in California, a corporate defendant is deemed to "reside" in any district in which its contacts would subject it to personal jurisdiction as if that district were a separate state. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). The venue analysis for business entities thus largely collapses into a personal jurisdiction analysis: if Ellex is subject to personal jurisdiction in the Northern District, then venue in the Northern District is proper.

However, even where venue is proper, "[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 or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). A motion for transfer lies within the broad discretion of the district court, and must be determined on an individualized basis. Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000). Courts in this district evaluate the following factors to determine which venue is more convenient: (1) plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) convenience of the parties, (3) convenience of the witnesses, (4) ease of access to the evidence, (5) familiarity of each forum with the applicable law, (6) feasibility of consolidation with other claims, (7) any local interest in the controversy, and (8) the relative court congestion and time of trial in each forum. See, e.g., Williams v. Bowman, 157 F.Supp.2d 1103, 1106 (N.D. Cal. 2001).


Ellex's motion requires the Court to determine whether LightMed has established a proper basis for venue in the Northern District of California and, if venue is proper, whether the action should nevertheless be transferred to the Central District on convenience grounds.

A. Venue in the Northern District is proper.

LightMed asserts that Ellex's contacts with the Northern District are sufficiently "substantial, continuous and systematic" to subject Ellex to general personal jurisdiction here. LightMed asserts that:

• Ellex has an interactive website where it sells its products in the Northern District;
• Ellex previously had a research and development facility in Fremont;
• Ellex announced in 2006 that it was moving its global headquarters for sales, marketing, and customer ...

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