The AIPLA believes that the Eastern District of Texas is hearing too many patent cases. Legally, the organization has decided that E.D. Texas judges are “misapplying federal transfer rules by giving too much weight to plaintiffs’ choice of venue.”
In re Volkswagen is up for an en banc hearing in the 5th circuit court of appeals. The VW case is a product liability case stemming from a VW Golf crash that killed a 7–year old girl. The accident occurred in Dallas (location of the N.D. Tex.), but the case was filed 150 miles away in Marshall.
VW argues that the District Court (Judge Ward) abused its discretion in denying the defendant’s §1404 venue transfer motion — arguing that it would be “unduly burdensome” for the multinational to litigate in the Eastern District of Texas rather than the Northern District of Texas.
28 U.S.C. §1391, the venue statute, broadly allows cases to proceed in any venue where a defendant corporation “is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced.” Even when venue is proper, a court may still transfer the case to a more convenient location. 28 U.S.C. §1404 provides that a district court may transfer a civil action when it is both more convenient for the parties and witnesses and is “in the interest of justice.”
In an amicus brief filed in the case, the AIPLA argues that there are many cases sitting in the Eastern District of Texas that should more properly be heard elsewhere, and that the district court has been too slow to transfer venue.
“The routine filing of patent infringement complaints in the Eastern District of Texas that have essentially no connection to that district has been encouraged by the seeming reluctance of courts in that district to transfer cases under § 1404(a).”
As a backstop to its arguments, the AIPLA also raised the threat of legislation:
“It is also worth noting that legislation on patent reform currently before Congress seeks to narrow drastically venue in patent cases, driven to a great extent by a desire to address the kind of forum shopping that occurs in the Eastern District of Texas.4 Providing the district courts clear guidance on applying the transfer provision will go a long way toward solving the forum shopping problem that is the impetus behind the pending venue legislation.”
The AIPLA Argument:
The location of filing should only be a presumptive starting point in the venue analysis. If a defendant shows “good cause” reason to transfer, then the presumption should evaporate.
“Proximity of evidence” should be a major factor.
This decision is made at a very early stage in the litigation, thus the court should not require a high level of precise evidence to prove convenience.
The “public interest” is usually a sham argument. (That the people of E.D. Tex. have an interest in having their courts adjudicate patent cases if the goods are sold there).