Chief Judge Sleet denies motion to transfer to the District of Massachusetts.
Chief Judge Gregory M. Sleet recently denied a motion to transfer a case to the District of Massachusetts, where one defendant maintained its headquarters and records, based on an analysis of the Third Circuit's Jumara factors. Schubert v. Osram AG, et al., C.A. No. 12-923-GMS (D. Del. Feb. 14, 2013). In the process, the Court explained that it was less than clear that transfer would be statutorily permitted even if the Jumara factors weighed heavily in favor of transfer. Id. at 3. As Judge Sleet explained, a case may be transferred to “any other district or division where it might have been brought.” Id. at 3 (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)). In this case, it was unclear to the Court whether the plaintiff could have brought his case in the District of Massachusetts, since two of the defendants were German entities with no evident operations in Massachusetts. Id. The defendants argued that the District of Massachusetts would have been an appropriate forum because “all defendants consent to jurisdiction in Massachusetts,” but the Court rejected that argument, explaining “the fact that all of the defendants here consent to jurisdiction in Massachusetts is irrelevant” because “the personal jurisdiction requirement cannot be satisfied by a hypothetical waiver.” Id. at 4 (quoting Guzzetti v. Citrix Online Holdings GmbH, No. 12-01152-GMS, 2013 WL 124127, at *3 n.2 (D. Del. Jan. 3, 2012)). Although it was unclear to the Court whether it could transfer the case to the District of Massachusetts under § 1404(a), the Court did not resolve that issue because it found that the Jumara factors weighed against a transfer anyway. Id. at 5.
With regard to the Jumara factors, Judge Sleet explained that the issue was a close one, but that the defendants failed to carry their “burden to demonstrate that the balance of convenience strongly favors transfer” even though, the Court acknowledged, “Massachusetts may well present a more convenient venue for this litigation . . . .” Id. at 14 (emphasis in original). The Court rejected the argument that the plaintiff’s choice of forum was entitled to little weight because he was not a Delaware resident, explaining that because he had rational and legitimate reasons to choose Delaware, his choice still "is given significant weight in the convenience analysis.” Id. at 7. Further, while accepting that the defendants (two of which were Delaware corporations) preferred litigating in the District of Massacusetts, the Court explained that they faced an “uphill battle in contending that Delaware represents an inconvenient forum” because “the court has recognized that a defendant incorporated in Delaware should generally not be heard to argue that litigating in this district is inconvenient.” Id. at 9. The Court also believed that the existence of related, co-pending lawsuits in Delaware weighed against transfer, explaining that “[t]he time invested by the court in a case is one . . . [public interest factor], and [plaintiff] rightly notes that keeping this action in Delaware, along with the two related cases, will likely allow the court to develop some degree of familiarity with the ‘475 Patent, the underlying technology, and the relevant industry[,]” which weighs against transferring the case. Id. at 12.