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Arunachalam v. Pazuniak

United States District Court, N.D. California

March 17, 2015

LAKSHMI ARUNACHALAM, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE PAZUNIAK, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO TRANSFER Re: ECF Nos. 31, 37, 81,

JON S. TIGAR, District Judge.

Currently before the Court are three motions filed by Defendant George Pazuniak: a motion to dismiss, ECF No. 31, motion to transfer, ECF No. 37, and a motion for sanctions. ECF No. 81. Defendant O'Kelly, Ernst, and Bielli, LLC ("O'Kelly") has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. ECF No. 75.[1] The Court previously vacated the hearing on these motions and now grants the motion to transfer this case to the District of Delaware.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff Lakshmi Arunachalam, a California resident, is the "the sole inventor/owner of early Internet patents" relating to "real-time Web transactions from Web applications." Complaint, ECF No. 13 at ¶ 12.

Defendant George Pazuniak is "an attorney licensed to practice law in Delaware with an office in Wilmington, DE." Id. at ¶ 3. Defendant O'Kelly is "a law firm duly organized and existing under the laws of the State of Delaware with its principle place of business in the City of Wilmington, Delaware and also in Philadelphia, PA." Id. at ¶ 4. Plaintiff hired Defendant Pazuniak to litigate a series of patent cases from 2011 through 2013 "based upon his representation that he is a patent litigator and would provide competent counsel to competently conduct her patent cases." Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that Pazuniak "joined the O'Kelly Law Firm during the course of [Plaintiff's] patent litigation, and Pazuniak and O'Kelly Law became the Plaintiff attorneys in [Plaintiff's] patent cases." Id. at ¶ 13.[2]

With the assistance of Defendants in the instant action, Plaintiff sued a number of corporations for patent infringement in the District of Delaware in 2013 and 2014. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff's claims in this action all arise out of Defendants' representation of Plaintiff in the proceeding in the patent infringement proceedings in the District of Delaware. During the course of this representation, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Pazuniak disregarded her instructions, missed deadlines, and failed to provide diligent representation. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff also alleges that Pazuniak was verbally abusive to her. Id. at ¶ 62.

None of the Defendants are alleged to have represented Plaintiff in any matter in the state of California.

B. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Diversity exists, as Plaintiff is a resident of California, while Defendant O'Kelly and Defendant Pazuniak are both residents of Delaware. Plaintiff has alleged that an amount in controversy in excess of $75, 000. ECF No. 13 at ¶ 90.[3]

Defendant O'Kelly has filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 75.[4] O'Kelly asserts that Plaintiff does not have standing to prosecute the action, as the patents at issue belonged to corporate entities at the time of the underlying litigation. Because Plaintiff is not an attorney, O'Kelly argues that she also may not bring claims on behalf of those corporations. Id. at 4 (citing Rowland v. California Men's Colony, Unit II Men's Advisory Council (1993) 506 U.S. 194, 201-202). Plaintiff contends that this allegation is not true and that she was in fact the "assignee of and owned the majority of the patents" at the time the underlying patent infringement actions were brought. ECF No. 78 at 7. Defendant O'Kelly asks the Court to take judicial notice of certain court documents in order to conclude that Plaintiff did not in fact own any of the patents at the time of any of the underlying litigation. ECF No. 75-2. But, in support of this claim, Defendant O'Kelly provides the United States Patent and Trademark Database entry for one patent and the docket in one patent infringement action litigated by Pi-Net in the District of Delaware. ECF Nos. 75-4 and 75-6. Plaintiff has alleged she was the "sole inventor/owner" of 11 patents, ECF No. 13 at ¶ 12, and that she hired Pazuniak "for her patent cases against many infringers in 2011, 2012, and 2013." Id. at ¶ 13. Even if the Court were to take judicial notice of Defendant O'Kelly's documents, they would not conclusively establish that, contrary to Plaintiff's pleading, Defendants did not represent Plaintiff in any patent infringement actions brought on behalf of patents owned by Plaintiff.

Because Plaintiff has pled that Defendants litigated patent infringement actions on her behalf, ECF No. 13 at ¶ 12, and Defendant O'Kelly has not conclusively established that all of the underlying litigation was on behalf of a corporate entity rather than Plaintiff personally, the Court denies Defendant O'Kelly's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II. MOTION TO ...


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