Articles Posted in Jurisdiction and Venue

BlogPhoto-3-300x196Indianapolis, Indiana – Plaintiff, Somero Enterprises, Inc. (“Somero”), originally filed suit in the Indianapolis Division of the Southern District of Indiana alleging patent infringement against Defendant, Ligchine International Corporation (“Ligchine”). Ligchine responded to the Complaint by filing a Motion for Intra-District Transfer to the New Albany Division.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), a Court may “transfer an action filed in a proper, though not necessarily convenient, venue to a more convenient district.” According to the Court’s Order, the Court typically considers four factors: “(1) the convenience of the parties; (2) the convenience of the witnesses; (3) the situs of material events and access to proof; and (4) the interest of justice.” Order at p. 2. (citation omitted).

Ligchine argued that because Somero does not reside in the Southern District of Indiana and all of Ligchine’s offices, operations, witnesses, and evidence are located in the New Albany Division, the transfer should be granted. Somero opposed the Motion arguing that its preference for the Indianapolis Division should be given substantial deference. Further, Somero claimed its counsel would have to drive two hours more each way for in-person Court appearances which would require counsel to fly and/or stay overnight in a hotel, thereby increasing his exposure to COVID-19. However, in its Reply, Ligchine pointed out that a plaintiff’s choice of forum has diminishing importance when the selected forum is not the plaintiff’s home forum.

The Court found that while “several of the factors are neutral . . . [it is] significant the fact that none of the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred within the Indianapolis District, that Somero’s witnesses will have to travel 9.5 hours to the Indianapolis Division in any event and only an additional 1.5 hours to the New Albany Division, and that Ligchine’s witnesses are located within the New Albany Division.” Therefore, the transfer to the New Albany Division was granted. Order at p. 11.

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NobleRomansBlogPhoto-300x143Indianapolis, Indiana – Defendants, Gateway Triangle Corp., 7405 Indy Corp., 850 Indy Corp. Northlake Marketing, LLC and Thomas M. Collins, in a suit originally filed by Noble Roman’s, Inc. in the Superior Court of Marion County, Indiana filed a Notice of Removal to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

According to the Complaint, Noble Roman’s is the exclusive holder of licensing and franchising rights relating to the Noble Roman’s pizza brand. Noble Roman’s claims while they had a Franchise Agreement with Defendant Gateway, that Franchise Agreement terminated on December 31, 2019. Noble Roman’s filed suit seeking damages for Defendants’ alleged conversion and theft of Noble Roman’s property rights in violation of Indiana Code §§ 35-43-4-3 and 34-43-4-2. The Complaint further sought damages for breach of the Franchise Agreement, trademark infringement of U.S. Registration Nos. 987,069, 1,920,428, and 1,682,308, and unjust enrichment.

Defendants claim the case is removable under 28 U.S.C. § 1441 in part because federal question jurisdiction exists as Noble Roman’s asserted a federal claim under the Lanham Act. Further, Defendants assert the Southern District of Indiana has supplemental jurisdiction of the state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) because they form part of the same case or controversy as the federal trademark claims.

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USA – The Copyright Alternative in Small-Clams Enforcement (CASE) Act was enacted on December 27, 2020.  This creates a Copyright Claims Board consisting of three officers chosen by the Librarian of Congress and the Register of Copyrights.  The officers will act as arbitrators for civil copyright claims and counterclaims capped at $30,000 in damages for declaratory judgment of non-infringement or for notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  The Board is expected to be operational by December 27, 2021.

Parties may affirmatively opt out of adjudication before the board within 60 days of service. Failure to do so will serve as consent to the proceeding before the Board and will waive the right to a jury trial.

The proceedings before the Board are also less formal. While parties can conduct written discovery, they may not conduct depositions under the CASE Act. Further, unlike federal district courts, attorneys’ fees are not generally awardable to prevailing parties.

Indianapolis, IndianaWonderland Switzerland AG (“Wonderland”), the Plaintiff and resident of Switzerland, originally filed suit in the Central District of California for patent infringement against Defendant, Dorel Juvenile Group, Inc. (“Dorel”), an Indiana-based company,. The Complaint asserted three claims concerning three different patents relating to car seats and strollers filed a motion to dismiss or transfer the case for improper venue.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), “[f]or 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 or to any district or division to which all parties consented.” According to the Court’s Order, while ordinarily a “defendant must make a strong showing of inconvenience to warrant upsetting the plaintiff’s choice of forum,” “where the plaintiff is a non-resident of the forum, and/or the case has relatively little connection to the chosen forum, the Plaintiff’s choice of forum does not enjoy that type of benefit on a Section 1404(a) motion.”

The Court held that the factors for transfer weighed heavily in Dorel’s favor. Further, the Court noted that “[t]o the extent a transfer of this action to Indiana is a ‘shifting of inconveniences,’ the only ‘convenience’ factor it negates for Plaintiff is a potential relative ease of traveling from Switzerland . . . to Los Angeles over traveling from Switzerland . . . to Indiana.” Therefore, the action was transferred to the Southern District of Indiana for further proceedings and the improper venue portion of the motion was denied as moot.

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Indianapolis, Indiana –Plaintiffs, City of Fishers, Indiana, City of Indianapolis, Indiana, City of Evansville, Indiana, and City of Valparaiso, Indiana, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated filed suit on September 4, 2020 in Marion Superior Court (Case No. 49D01-2008-PL-026436) alleging that Defendants, Netflix, Inc., Disney DTC LLC, Hulu, LLC, Directv LLC, Dish Network Corp., and Dish Network LLC, violated the Indiana Video Service Franchises Act Ind. Code. § 8-1-34-1 et seq. Plaintiffs are seeking an order declaring Defendants provide video service in Indiana and to require Defendants to perform statutory duties including compensating Plaintiffs and all other units of government for unpaid fees for past service.

Defendant, Netflix, filed a Notice of Removal on September 9, 2020 from Marion County Superior Court 1 to the United Stated District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Netflix asserted jurisdiction in the Southern District due to diversity jurisdiction and jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (“CAFA”). Netflix noted that since Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this case, three more cases have been filed against Netflix and Hulu alleging similar violations of various state video franchise acts in Texas, Ohio, and Nevada.

Following the Notice of Removal, the Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Remand the case under the doctrine of comity. In the Southern District’s Order, the Court explained, “[t]he comity doctrine encourages federal courts to avoid ‘interfer[ing] . . . with the fiscal operations of the state governments . . . in all cases where the Federal rights of the persons could otherwise be preserved unimpaired.’ Levin v. Commerce Energy, Inc., 560 U.S. 413, 422 (2010).” Therefore, the case was remanded back to Marion Superior Court.

Practice Tip: Removal of a putative class action under the CAFA is proper if: 1) there is a class action; 2) there is minimal diversity between the parties, such that at least one class member is a citizen of a state different from the state of any defendant; and 3) the aggregate amount in controversy exceeds $5,000,000, exclusive of interest and costs. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(d)(2).

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Hammond, IndianaTyler Research Corporation (“TRC”), the Plaintiff, filed suit against the Defendants, Envacon, Inc., Kieran Bozman, and JKKB Holding Corporation, alleging infringement of its rights in United States Patent No. 6,273,053 (the “‘053 Patent”). After amending the Complaint, the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Forum Non-Conveniens.

TRC is apparently a Pennsylvania corporation having its principal place of business in Alberta, Canada. According to the Opinion of the Court, Envacon, Inc. and JKKB Holding Corporation are both Canadian entities and Kieran Bozman resides in Canada.

Forum non conveniens allows a district court to dismiss a case “in order to best service the convenience of the parties and the ends of justice.” Stroitelstvo Bulgaria Ltd. v. Bulgarian-American Enter. Fund, 589 F.3d 417, 421 (7th Cir. 2009) (citing Clerides v. Boeing Co., 534 F.3d 623, 627–28 (7th Cir. 2008)). The Court in this case found that while a “Canadian court is unlikely to adjudicate a claim for the infringement of a United States patent,” TRC could still bring a claim for infringement of its Canadian patent and a claim for breach of contract, “which alone would remedy the alleged wrong.” Opinion at p. 9. After finding an alternative forum is available for the case, the Court conducted an analysis and found the public interest and private interests of the parties would be best served by dismissing the case and allowing it to proceed in Canada. Therefore, the Court granted the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Eli Lilly and Company (“Lilly”) filed suit on November 13, 2019 in the Southern District of Indiana against Defendant SensorRx seeking a declaratory judgment that it had not misappropriated trade secrets among other things. SensorRx in turn, on November 22, 2019 filed a lawsuit in the Western District of North Carolina seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages. SensorRx then filed a Motion to Dismiss or to Transfer Lilly’s declaratory action suit to North Carolina.

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The Southern District found Lilly’s declaratory action was an “improper anticipatory filing” as there was a clear threat of litigation prior to the filing of the declaratory action. As such, the Court declined to exercise its discretion to hear the declaratory judgment action. The Court further found that the balance of factors under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) weighed in favor of transferring the action to the Western District of North Carolina where SensorRx filed its suit. Therefore, SensorRx’s Motion to Transfer was granted and the case was transferred to the Western District of North Carolina. Continue reading

Syndicate Sales Inc., an Indiana corporation, along with six other Defendants filed notice to remove a case initially filed in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles by Plaintiff, Natural Pack, Inc. (“Natural Pack”). Defendants sought to remove the case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1337, and 1441 for federal question and diversity jurisdiction.

The removed case is a civil action entitled Natural Pack, Inc. v. Syndicate Sales, Inc. et al. Case No 19TSCV32476 (the “State Action”).  Natural Pack filed the State Action on September 12, 2019, asserting claims for violation of Uniform Trade Secrets Act, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, negligence, violation of the Lanham Act, and California Statutory and common law infringement. Following removal to the Central District of California, the Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(2) or in the alternative to Change Venue pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1401. The case was transferred to the Southern District of Indiana on January 21, 2020.

The Original Notice of Removal was filed October 15, 2019 in the Central District of California; and the case was transferred to the Southern District of  Indiana on January 21, 2020 given Case No. 1:20-cv-00219-JRS-DLP and assigned to District Judge James R. Sweeney and Magistrate Judge Doris L. Pryor.

Indianapolis, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, Dean Potter LLC (“Potter LLC”), an Indiana limited liability company, filed suit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging that Defendants, LG Electronics USA, Inc. (“LG”), a Delaware corporation, and DOES 1 – 10, infringed its intellectual property rights, including the right of publicity. Potter LLC is seeking injunctive relief, judgment including statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees.

According to the Complaint, Potter LLC “is the exclusive owner of the name, likeness, image, right of publicity and endorsement, trademarks,Potter-BlogPhoto-300x240 and other intellectual property rights of the late Dean Potter.” Potter LLC claims Mr. Potter was a well-known extreme sports athlete who was featured in National Geographic for his stunts including highlining, BASE jumping, and rock climbing. Mr. Potter was allegedly featured traversing a highline in the short film entitled Moonwalk, that was shot in 2011 and published by 2012. It is alleged that no one else has recreated Mr. Potter’s performance in Moonwalk and that Potter LLC is the owner of Mr. Potter’s right of publicity and common law trademark rights in the film.

Potter LLC alleges Defendants utilized footage from Moonwalk in which Mr. Potter was traversing the highline in its commercial entitled “Listen. Think. Answer.” (the “Commercial”). According to the Complaint, LG is a multi-billion dollar corporation that has previously protected and enforced its intellectual property rights, meaning it is aware of the need to obtain a license for using Mr. Potter’s right of publicity and or likeness or commercial purposes. However, Potter LLC claims it was not approached by Defendants regarding a license for the Commercial and it never authorized Defendants to use Mr. Potter’s likeness. Potter LLC further claims Mr. Potter, during his life, “rejected the corporate, commercial, and competitive worlds that sought to profit from his art without understanding it”.

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Kosciusko County, Indiana – Attorneys for Plaintiff, Rick C. Sasso, M.D. (“Dr. Sasso”) of Carmel, Indiana, originally filed suit in the Kosciusko County Superior Court in Indiana alleging that Defendants, Warsaw Orthopedic, Inc., Medtronic, PLC, and Medtronic Sofamor Danek, Inc., haveSassoBlogPhoto-266x300 denied him and his accounting firm access to their sales ledger per two separate agreements. Dr. Sasso is seeking an injunction ordering Defendants to provide full access to its sales ledger to determine royalties owed to Dr. Sasso under two separate agreements. As of April 12, 2019, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal to remove the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Per the complaint, Dr. Sasso is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in the treatment of the spine. Dr. Sasso claims the Defendants, together, are top manufacturers for spine implants. It is claimed Dr. Sasso entered into two separate agreements with Sofamor Danek Holding, Inc., which was later acquired by Warsaw Orthopedic through a merger. The first alleged agreement, is the 1999 Screw Delivery System Agreement on November 18, 1999 (the “1999 Agreement”). The second alleged agreement is the 2001 Vertex Agreement, entered into on July 26, 2001 (the “2001 Agreement”). Dr. Sasso claims that these agreements have clauses that enable him to “inspect, examine, audit, and copy [Defendants’] records” relating to the agreements once per calendar year.

In August 2013, Dr. Sasso filed a different suit against the Defendants for unpaid royalties under both the 1999 and 2001 Agreements. Dr. Sasso was granted royalties in the amount of $79,794,721.00 for the 1999 Agreement and $32,657,548.00 for the 2001 Agreement, which has been appealed by Defendants. According to the complaint, the 1999 Agreement requires the Defendants to continue paying royalties until the expiration of U.S. Patent No. 6,287,313 and U.S. Patent No. 6,562,046, on or about November 23, 2019. Dr. Sasso also claims the 2001 Agreement requires Defendants to pay royalties to him so long as “the Medical Device is covered by a valid claim of an issued patent arising out of the Intellectual Property Rights.”

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