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Gpne Corp v. Amazon.Com

May 9, 2012

GPNE CORP.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMAZON.COM, INC.; APPLE INC.;
BARNES & NOBLE, INC.; GARMIN ;
LTD.; GARMIN INTERNATIONAL,
INC.; NOKIA CORPORATION; NOKIA, INC.; PANTECH CO., LTD.; PANTECH WIRELESS, INC.; RESEARCH IN MOTION LTD.; RESEARCH IN MOTION CORPORATION; SHARP CORPORATION; SHARP ELECTRONICS CORPORATION; SONY ERICSSON MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS AB; AND SONY ERICSSON MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS (USA), INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Oki Mollway Chief United States District Judge

ORDER AFFIRMING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S ORDER TRANSFERRING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS AGAINST RESEARCH IN MOTION LTD.; RESEARCH IN MOTION CORPORATION APPLE INC.; AND BARNES & NOBLE, INC.

I. INTRODUCTION.

Plaintiff GPNE Corp. ("GPNE") appeals the Magistrate Judge's order granting two motions to transfer venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The first motion, filed by Research in Motion Ltd., and Research in Motion Corporation (collectively, "RIM"), sought transfer to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. See Defs.' Mot. to Sever and Transfer Pl.s' Claims Against Research in Motion Ltd. and Research in Motion Corp., Dec. 19, 2011, ECF No. 185. The second motion, filed by Apple Inc., and Barnes & Noble, Inc., sought transfer to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. See Defs. Apple Inc. and Barnes & Noble, Inc.'s Consolidated Mot. to Sever Claims and Transfer Venue, Feb. 2, 2012, ECF No. 218. This court affirms the Magistrate Judge's transfer order. See Mem. Opinion and Order Regarding Mot. to Sever and Transfer Pl.'s Claims Against Research in Motion Ltd. and Research in Motion Corporation and Defs Apple Inc. and Barnes & Noble, Inc.'s Consolidated Mot. to Sever Claims and Transfer Venue, March 19, 2012, ECF No. 246 ("Order").

II. BACKGROUND.

GPNE alleges infringement of three patents by sixteen Defendants, including RIM, Apple, and Barnes & Noble. Compl., July 7, 2011, ECF No. 1. The patents all relate to computer technology. GPNE says that Apple is infringing on the patents by "making, using, offering for sale, selling and/or importing computerized communications devices with the ability to function with GPRS including . . . the iPhone 4 . . . and the iPad." Id. ¶ 45. With respect to Barnes & Noble, GPNE refers to Barnes & Noble's e-reader, the Nook. Id. ¶ 58. With respect to RIM, GPNE refers to RIM's smartphones. Id. ¶ 62. GPNE alleges that the inventions protected by the three patents were conceived of in Hawaii by two Hawaii residents. Id. ¶ 41. GPNE further alleges that each Defendant "has committed, and continues to commit, acts of infringement in this judicial district, has conducted business in this judicial district and/or has engaged in continuous and systematic activities in this judicial district," and that the products of each are sold in this district. Id. ¶¶ 3, 5, 7, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27, 31. GPNE is incorporated in Hawaii, and its principal place of business is in Honolulu. Id. ¶ 1.

Research in Motion Ltd. is a foreign corporation based in Ontario, Canada. Id. ¶ 20. Its affiliate, Research in Motion Corporation, is based in Irving, Texas, where any federal case would be handled by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. Id. ¶ 21.

Apple's principal place of business is in Cupertino, California, an area within the Northern District of California. Id. ¶ 4. Barnes & Noble's principal place of business is in New York, New York, id. ¶ 6, but Barnes & Noble also has a facility in Palo Alto, within the Northern District of California, Decl. of Daniel Gilbert ¶ 4, ECF No. 218-6.

On December 19, 2011, RIM moved to sever and transfer the claims asserted against it. On February 2, 2012, Apple and Barnes & Noble (jointly) also moved to sever and transfer the claims asserted against them. The Magistrate Judge granted the motions.

With respect to severance, the Magistrate Judge ruled that GPNE had improperly joined Defendants under Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He noted that GPNE's claims against Defendants did not arise out of the same series of transactions or occurrences. Order at 7. The Magistrate Judge therefore severed all claims against Defendants except Amazon.com, Inc. (the first named Defendant) from this action, pursuant to Rule 21 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Id. at 10.

With respect to transfer, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the interests of justice and the convenience of the parties would be served by transferring GPNE's action against RIM to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and by transferring GPNE's actions against Apple and Barnes & Noble to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Order at 23. GPNE now appeals only the portion of the Magistrate Judge's order regarding transfer. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2(d), the court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing.

III. LEGAL STANDARD.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 74.1, a party may appeal to a district judge any pretrial nondispositive matter determined by a magistrate judge. Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), a magistrate judge's order may be reversed by a district court only if it is "clearly erroneous or contrary to law." The threshold of the "clearly erroneous" test is high. "A finding is 'clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948). See also Thorp v. Kepoo, 100 F. Supp. 2d 1258, 1260 (D. Haw. 2000) (the clearly erroneous standard is "significantly deferential, requiring a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.").

IV. ANALYSIS.

A request for transfer of venue is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which 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." The purpose of § 1404(a) is "to prevent the waste 'of time, energy and money' and 'to protect litigants, witnesses and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.'" Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964) (quoting Continental Grain Co. v. Barge FBL-585, 364 U.S. 19, 26-27 (1960)). Under § 1404(a), discretion is vested "in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 27 (1988) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Weighing of the factors for and against transfer involves subtle considerations and is best left to the discretion of the trial judge." Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 486 F.3d 1111, 1118 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Commodity Futures Trading Comm'n v. Savage, 611 F.2d 270, 279 (9th Cir. 1979)).

The Ninth Circuit has stated that a court must weigh multiple factors when considering a motion for change of venue. See Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498 (9th Cir. 2000). For example, a court may consider:

(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed,

(2) the state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (4) the respective parties' contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiff's cause of action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the availability of compulsory process to compel ...


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