A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Jumara

Its going to be a short post tonight because I'm writing a brief and a Minnesota team looks like it may fail to disappoint me in the playoffs for the first time ever.

Please do good wolves. Please.
Please do good wolves. Please. Chris Ensminger, Unsplash

Thankfully today we got an argument about venue that I had never seen before. I mean, It's been 8 years since TC Heartland -- its really pretty nuts that you can still see something new.

The case was Institute for Environmental Health, Inc. v. National Beef Packing Company, LLC, C.A. No. 23-826-JS (D. Del. May 16, 2024). Defendant was moving to transfer, and before addressing the usual Jumara factors, the court addressed the threshold question of whether venue was proper in Delaware.

Defendant—and this is the weird part—argued that it did not reside in Delaware because, it was a Delaware LLC, rather than a corporation. The Court disagreed:

Defendant argues that as an LLC it is unincorporated, and thus under TC Heartland, LLC, it does not “reside” in Delaware because it was not “incorporated” in Delaware. However, Defendant was organized as an LLC under Delaware law and therefore for purposes of venue resides in Delaware. Further, other federal district courts have held that an LLC resides in the state in which it was organized . . . Accordingly, venue is proper in the District of Delaware.

Id. at 7-8 (internal citations omitted).

As near as I can tell this is the first time a party has made this argument in Delaware. Judging by the decision, I don't expect to see too many more, but I do appreciate the easy post.


Go Wolves!

Artist's depiction of the <a href='#' class='abbreviation' data-bs-toggle='tooltip' data-placement='top' title='Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873 (3d Cir. 1995)'>Jumara</a> factors in action
Artist's depiction of the Jumara factors in action Nick Fewings, Unsplash

Yesterday, Judge Noreika transferred a trademark, false advertising, false designation of origin, and unfair competition case to the Northern District of Illinois. See Rockwell Automation, Inc. v. EU Automation, Inc., C.A. No. 21-1162-MN (D. Del. Oct. 27, 2022).

This is interesting because, to my knowledge, Judge Noreika has transferred few if any patent cases out of the District of Delaware—including when both parties are have strong ties to the transferee forum.

I thought it would be interesting to see how the Jumara factors played out in this trademark case compared to …

Delaware Memorial Bridge
Chintan Jani, Unsplash

We didn't post about this Judge Connolly opinion when it came out back in October, but on revisiting it, I thought it was worth noting.

In deciding a transfer motion, Judge Connolly suggested in a footnote that, for Delaware LLCs, venue may not be proper in Delaware unless the individual members of the LLC are citizens of Delaware (which often may not be the case):

It's not clear to me that a Delaware LLC "resides" in Delaware for purposes of § 1400(b). Although residency is not synonymous with citizenship, the terms are related; and an LLC's citizenship for purposes of deciding whether diversity jurisdiction exists "is determined by the citizenship of each of its members," Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood, 592 F.3d 412,418 (3d Cir. 2010). In this case, I am unable to determine Den-Mat's state of citizenship because it has not expressly identified the persons and/or corporations who are its members.

The Court held that the analysis proceeds up the chain of ownership to include everyone with an interest in the LLC—so it sounds like simply being a subsidiary of a Delaware corporation may not be sufficient:

Den-Mat certified in its Rule 7.1 disclosure statement that its "parent company" is an LLC. . . . It seems likely to me that the parent LLC is Den-Mat's sole member, but I can't be sure of that. In any event, Den-Mat did not identify the members of its parent LLC, and to determine the citizenship of an LLC, courts proceed up the chain of ownership until they determine the identity and citizenship of every individual and corporation with a direct or indirect interest in the LLC . . . .

It's worth noting that the entity at issue ...

Yesterday the Federal Circuit granted a mandamus petition to transfer a case against Apple out of the Western District of Texas to the Northern District of California, ordering that Judge Alan D. Albright had clearly erred in declining to transfer the case.

Patently O has a full summary of the opinion, including the strong dissent.

A couple of additional thoughts:

  • It is interesting that the Federal Circuit did not have a problem with Apple filing its mandamus petition before the District Court had even ruled on the motion to transfer. Footnote 1 does limit this practice to the "particular circumstances of the case," but obviously it worked out well for Apple here.
  • The Federal Circuit's opinion applies Fifth Circuit …

Adolfo Félix, Unsplash

The short answer is: it depends on the judge.

These days, most Delaware patent plaintiffs are incorporated in Delaware but not located here. Different District of Delaware judges have gone different ways on the question of whether a plaintiff's location actually matters when considering whether to transfer a case out of Delaware.

Transfer motions are governed by the twelve "Jumara factors," and plaintiff's choice of forum gets "paramount" weight except—some judges have held—when the plaintiff is not actually located in Delaware.

Judge Connolly today answered this question with a resounding "no," holding that the location of plaintiff's principal place of business does not matter to whether it's choice of forum gets paramount weight: …

Wilmington, <a href='#' class='abbreviation' data-bs-toggle='tooltip' data-placement='top' title='Delaware'>DE</a>
Wilmington, DE Andrew Russell, CC BY 2.0

In an opinion today, Judge Andrews laid out his updated thoughts on transfer motions, particularly in light of COVID-19 travel restrictions and the related difficulties.

Here are some interesting points re: his views:

  • In granting transfer, he focused on the fact that the Plaintiff's principal place of business was not Delaware
  • He held that convenience of counsel is irrelevant, because parties can choose their counsel.
  • As far as court congestion, he noted that "[o]ne other Delaware judge and I each individually had more old cases than the entire Western District [of Washington]," and that the Judicial Conference has recommended …

I'm not sure that these are actually Georgia peaches.
I'm not sure that these are actually Georgia peaches. Joanna Stołowicz, Unsplash

Judge Noreika granted a motion to transfer yesterday in a case against an Equifax entity, where 3 of the Third Circuit's Jumara factors favored transfer, and only one (plaintiff's choice of forum) weighed against.

My first thought was—Did the plaintiff really have only one factor in it's favor?

Judge Noreika usually credits the fact that the Defendant is a Delaware corporation, and I thought Equifax was one.

Turns out, so did plaintiff. The complaint lists the defendant as a Delaware corporation. But—as the Court notes—Equifax Information Services is actually a Georgia entity. Plaintiff messed up.

So the transfer makes sense. The plaintiff is Hawaiian, meaning …

Plane in turbulence
Turbulence, Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash

Judge Andrews recently dropped this intriguing paragraph modifying the balancing of the Jumara transfer factors in light of COVID-19:

Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. Hopefully, things will get better, but the pandemic has highlighted that there can be risks associated with travel. Some people who would not have been worried about travel before the pandemic are now reluctant to travel. I believe it is appropriate to give slightly greater weight to the possibility of less risk associated with less travel, which would favor the [transfer] venue.

The opinion is otherwise a bog-standard grant of transfer where both parties were incorporated in Delaware but had no other real connection. It's quite rare to see any …