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Sentegra, LLC v. ASUS Computer International

United States District Court, N.D. California

June 1, 2016

SENTEGRA, LLC, Plaintiff,


          GREGORY H. WOODS, United States District Judge.


         Defendant ASUS Computer International (“ACI”) seeks to transfer this patent infringement suit to the Northern District of California, where it is headquartered. Plaintiff Sentegra, LLC (“Sentegra”), lacking any meaningful connection to the Southern District of New York-its principal place of business is in Colorado, no witnesses reside in New York, and no facts material to a patent infringement suit occurred in New York-argues that transfer is inappropriate because it has filed separate patent infringement suits against different defendants in the current forum. Notwithstanding Sentegra’s apparent preference for the Southern District of New York as the forum for patent infringement actions against defendants from far and yonder, for the reasons outlined below, ACI’s motion to transfer is GRANTED.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         Sentegra, a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Castle Rock, Colorado, is the owner of U.S. Patent No. 8, 706, 627 (“the ’627 Patent”). Compl. ¶¶ 1, 3, 14. The ’627 Patent generally relates to wireless hand-held devices capable of conducting secure transactions. Id. ¶ 2. The complaint alleges that ACI-a California corporation with its principal place of business in Fremont, California-designs, manufactures, markets and sells ASUS-branded mobile devices that infringe upon the ’627 patent. Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 16-20. Sentegra filed suit on May 15, 2015, bringing claims for patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. §§ 100, et seq.

         At the time that this suit was commenced, Plaintiff was litigating a separate patent infringement action in this district-also related to the ’627 Patent but against an unrelated set of defendants-Sentegra, LLC v. LG Electronics Inc., et al., 1:15-cv-01535-CM. That action has since been voluntarily dismissed. Plaintiff has since filed another separate patent infringement suit in this district, also related to the ’627 Patent and against an unrelated defendant, Sentegra, LLC v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc., 1:15-cv-9266-VEC. That case is still active, and, as of the date of this order, a motion to dismiss has been fully briefed.

         After an initial pretrial conference was held, ACI filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for improper venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a), or in the alternative, a motion to transfer this action to the Northern District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Dkt. No. 31. ACI has since withdrawn the motion to dismiss for improper venue, in light of the Federal Circuit’s decision in In re TC Heartland LLC, __F.3d__, 2016 WL 1709433 (Fed. Cir. Apr. 29, 2016), but maintains the motion to transfer. See Dkt. No. 61.


         Section 1404(a) of Title 28 provides: “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 . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). “Thus, section 1404(a) proposes a two-part test. First, the transferee district must be one where jurisdiction over the defendant could have been obtained at the time suit was brought, regardless of defendant’s consent. Second, the transfer must be in the interest of justice and convenience of the parties and witnesses.” In re CenturyLink, Inc. Sec. Litig., No. 13-cv-3839 (LTS), 2014 WL 1089116, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 18, 2014) (alterations omitted) (quoting Whitehaus Collection v. Barclay Products, Ltd., No. 11-cv-217, 2011 WL 4036097 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2011)).

         The parties do not dispute that Sentegra’s claims could have been brought in the Northern District of California. Having satisfied that threshold inquiry, the Court must evaluate the following factors to determine whether to grant a motion to transfer venue:

(1) the convenience of the witnesses; (2) the convenience of the parties; (3) the location of relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (4) the locus of operative facts; (5) the availability of process to compel the attendance of unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means of the parties; (7) the forum’s familiarity with the governing law; (8) the weight accorded the plaintiff’s choice of forum; and (9) trial efficiency and the interests of justice.

Steck v. Santander Consumer USA Holdings Inc., No. 14-cv-6942 (JPO), 2015 WL 3767445, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 17, 2015) (quoting Ritchie Capital Mgmt., L.L.C. v. U.S. Bank Nat. Ass’n, No. 14-cv-8513 (PAE), 2015 WL 1611391, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 10, 2015)).

         The list of factors is not exhaustive, Pausch Med. GmbH v. Pausch LLC, No. 14-cv-1945 (PAC), 2015 WL 783365, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 24, 2015), and “[t]here is no rigid formula for balancing these factors and no single one of them is determinative, ” Citigroup Inc. v. City Holding Co., 97 F.Supp.2d 549, 561 (S.D.N.Y. 2000). Rather, “weighing the balance is essentially an equitable task left to the Court’s discretion.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court, moreover, has “broad discretion in making determinations of convenience under Section 1404(a) and notions of convenience and fairness are considered on a case-by-case basis.” D.H. Blair & Co. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95, 106 (2d Cir. 2006).

         “[T]he party requesting transfer carries the burden of making out a strong case for transfer, ” and district courts “have consistently applied the clear and convincing evidence standard in determining whether to exercise discretion to grant a transfer motion.” New York Marine & Gen. Ins. Co. v. Lafarge N. Am., Inc., 599 F.3d 102, 114 (2d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. The Convenience of the Witnesses and the Availability of Process to Compel Attendance of Unwilling Witnesses

         “Courts typically regard the convenience of witnesses as the most important factor in considering a § 1404(a) motion to transfer.” Jackson v. Avis Rent A Car Sys., LLC, No. 14-cv-1658 (LLS), 2015 WL 1004299, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 6, 2015) (quoting Herbert Ltd. P’ship v. Elec. Arts Inc.,325 F.Supp.2d 282, 286 (S.D.N.Y. 2004)). In conducting this analysis, the Court “weighs more heavily the convenience of non-party witnesses than ...

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