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Gibson Brands, Inc. v. John Hornby Skewes & Co. Ltd.

United States District Court, C.D. California

May 28, 2014

GIBSON BRANDS, INC., a Delaware corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN HORNBY SKEWES & CO. LTD., Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE [Dkt No. 9]

DEAN D. PREGERSON, District Judge.

Before the court is Defendant John Horby Skewes & Co. Ltd. ("JHS")'s Motion to Transfer. (Dkt. No. 9.) The matter is fully briefed and suitable for decision without oral argument. Having considered the parties' submissions, the court adopts the following order denying the motion.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Gibson Brands, Inc. ("Gibson"), a developer, manufacturer, and seller of musical instruments, is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Nashville, Tennessee. (Declaration of Bruce Mitchell in Opposition to Motion ¶ 2; Complaint ¶ 2). Defendant JHS, a distributor of musical instruments, is a United Kingdom corporation with a principal place of business in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Compl. ¶ 4.)

On January 27, 2014, Gibson filed the instant action before this court asserting claims for trademark infringement, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and other related causes of action under federal, state, and common law. (Dkt. No. 1) The complaint asserts that JHS promoted or sold products containing Gibson trademarks without authorization, including the sales of infringing goods through distributors with stores located in California and via internet sales to customers in California. (See Complaint ¶¶ 2, 5, 20, 24.)

On April 1, 2014, JHS filed the instant motion seeking an order transferring this action to the Middle District of Tennessee. (Dkt. No. 9.) In an unusual twist for a motion to transfer, the defendant seeks to have the action transferred to the judicial district where the plaintiff is based.

II Legal Standard

Motions for change of venue based on convenience are governed by 28 U.S.C. section 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 or division where it might have been brought." Thus, even when venue is proper where the action is pending, section 1404(a) provides the court with the discretion to transfer an action to a different venue under certain circumstances.

The analysis for transfer is two-fold. First, the defendant must establish that the matter "might have been brought" in the district to which transfer is sought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). This includes demonstrating that subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and venue would have been proper if the plaintiff had filed the action in the district to which transfer is sought. Hoffman v. Blaski , 363 U.S. 335, 343-44 (1960).

Second, the Court must balance three general factors: (1) the convenience of the parties; (2) the convenience of the witnesses; and (3) the interest of justice. The court construes these factors broadly to consider the specific facts appropriate in a given case E. & J. Gallo Winery v. F. & P.S.A. , 899 F.Supp. 465, 466 (E.D. Cal. 1994).

Substantial weight is generally accorded to the plaintiff's choice of forum, and a court should not order a transfer unless the "convenience" and "justice" factors set forth above weigh heavily in favor of venue elsewhere. Sec. Investor Prot. Corp. v. Vigman , 764 F.2d 1309, 1317 (9th Cir. 1985). The party seeking the transfer bears the burden of persuasion. HollyAnne Corp. v. TFT, Inc. , 199 F.3d 1304, 1307 n. 2 (Fed. Cir. 1999); Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Savage , 611 F.2d 270, 279 (9th Cir. 1979).

III. Discussion

A. Venue in the Middle District of Tennessee

The court concludes that this action "might have been brought" in the Middle District of Tennessee because the requirements for subject matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, and proper venue are met. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); Hoffman , 363 U.S. at 343-44. First, because the claims are brought under the federal Lanham Act, the Middle District of Tennessee, like all district courts, has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Second, the Middle District of Tennessee could exercise personal jurisdiction over Gibson because Gibson's principal place of business is in Nashville, Tennessee. See Daimler AG v. Bauman , 134 S.Ct. 746, 772, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014) ("[A] State can exercise general jurisdiction where a corporate defendant has its corporate headquarters, and hence its principal place of business within the State.") Third, venue is proper in "a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events... giving rise fo the claim occurred, or a ...


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