May 6, 2013

Judge Robinson Denies Motion to Dismiss Declaratory Judgment Suit in Butamax, Gevo Biofuel Patent Dispute

Judge Robinson recently denied a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction filed by Gevo in its ongoing biofuel patent infringement dispute with Butamax and DuPont. Butamax filed the action in question against Gevo seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement of a certain patent (the “’505 patent”). The ’505 patent is a continuation of a patent at issue in one of the other fifteen cases pending between the parties (the “’808 patent”). Gevo responded with the motion to dismiss, raising a challenge to declaratory judgment jurisdiction. See Butamax Advanced Biofuels LLC v. Gevo, Inc., C.A. No. 12-1301-SLR, Memorandum Order at 1-5 (D. Del. May 2, 2013).

Although the ’505 patent was terminally disclaimed over the ’808 patent, Gevo alleged that claims of the ’505 patent were “distinct from those of the ’808 patent [and] thus, Gevo’s assertion of infringement of the ’808 patent [did] not necessarily implicate the ’505 patent.” Id. at 5. Judge Robinson concluded, however, that “[c]omparing the claims of the ’505 patent and the ’808 patent . . . there are substantial similarities in the claimed subject matter.” Moreover, “the pattern of litigation between the parties and the close relationship between the patents constitute facts sufficient to show the existence of an actual controversy between the parties.” Id. Futhermore, Gevo’s assertion that it “lack[ed] sufficient information regarding the fermentation conditions of Butamax and DuPont’s products to determine if they infringe the ’505 patent” was unconvincing given that “the ’505 patent in a continuation of the ’808 patent and Gevo has not offered Butamax and DuPont a covenant not to sue on the ’505 patent.” Id. at n.3. Accordingly, Judge Robinson found that a sufficient controversy existed for declaratory judgment jurisdiction and denied the motion to dismiss.

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May 3, 2013

Judge Robinson grants in part plaintiff’s motion to compel third party discovery

In a recent order, Judge Sue L. Robinson addressed a non-party’s motion to quash plaintiff’s subpoena and plaintiff’s cross-motion to compel. Cradle IP LLC v. Texas Instruments, Inc., C.A. No. 11-1254-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 29, 2013). Plaintiff had filed an action against defendant Texas Instruments, Inc. in late 2011, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,647,450; 6,874,049; 6,708,259. Id. at 1. In late 2012 and early 2013, plaintiff served subpoenas on a non-party, Nokia Siemen Networks US LLC (“NSN US”), seeking documents and a deposition “related to Nokia Siemens base transceiver stations that [Texas Instruments] . . . identified as incorporating certain of the accused devices.” Id. at 1. Judge Robinson granted plaintiff’s motion to compel, but only to the extent that “NSN US has an employee or representative who has knowledge of the topics identified in the subpoena; does not need to obtain documents or information from [Nokia Siemens Networks Oy] for such knowledge; and lives, works, or regularly transacts business within 100 miles of the designated place of deposition.” Id. at 8. Further, Judge Robinson directed the deposition witness, if any, “to bring responsive documents that NSN US does not need to obtain from [Nokia Siemens Networks Oy], even if such documents are not located within 100 miles of the place of deposition or production.” Id. at 8-9.

With respect to the motions before the court, the “bulk” of the disagreement between plaintiff and NSN US surrounded whether NSN US had “control” over documents or information in the possession, custody, or control of Nokia Siemens Networks Oy (“NSN Oy”)—NSN US’s Finnish sister company that was also a non-party to the action. Id. at 4. Judge Robinson noted that “control is defined as the legal right to obtain the documents required on demand,” and that the court has “declined to apply a broader definition of ‘control’ that would also include an inquiry into the practical ability of the subpoenaed party to obtain documents.” Id. at 3. To determine whether such control was present, Judge Robinson was guided by the court’s previous decision in Power Integrations, Inc. v. Fairchild Semiconductor lnt’l, Inc., 233 F.R.D. 143 (D. Del. 2005). Id. at 3-6. Judge Robinson found that the relationship between NSN US and NSN Oy was similar to the “vendor relationship” between the parties in Power Integrations: “NSN US purchases the Nokia Siemens base station transceivers that are developed by NSN Oy, a separate and distinct corporate entity.” Id. at 4, 6. Although NSN US also conceded it “maintained” the products, the Court found that insufficient “to disregard the separate and distinct corporate identity of NSN US.” Id. at 6. Judge Robinson thus concluded that “NSN has no control over documents or information that it would have to obtain from NSN Oy.” Id.

Judge Robinson, however, was “concerned with certain aspects of NSN US’s motion to quash.” Id. Judge Robinson noted that “it [was] unclear from the record” whether NSN US was in the possession, custody, or control of other information it would not be required to obtain from NSN Oy, such as “supply chain” information or information regarding “certain hardware semaphores and software.” Id. Judge Robinson further found it unclear whether “any NSN US employee or representative within the court’s territorial limits may have knowledge that is responsive to the subpoena.” Id. at 7. Accordingly, Judge Robinson granted plaintiff’s motion to compel to the extent discussed above. Id. at 8-9.

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April 17, 2013

Judge Robinson construes claims, denies motions for summary judgment on infringement and invalidity, and denies plaintiff’s Daubert motion

In a recent Memorandum Opinion, Judge Sue L. Robinson construed several claim terms, denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment, and denied plaintiff’s motion to exclude defendant’s expert’s testimony on invalidity. Cellectis S.A. v. Precision Biosciences, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 11-173-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2013).

The Court first construed the following terms:

-“[M]onomer of an 1-Crel meganuclease variant comprising at least one mutation in the amino acid sequence of SEQ ID NO: 70, wherein said at least one mutation comprises a substitution at one or more of the amino acids residues at positions 44, 68 and 70 and said monomer further comprises at least one additional mutation of an amino acid residue directly contacting a DNA target sequence wherein said amino acid residue directly contacting a DNA target sequence is selected from the group consisting of positions 26, 28, 30, 32,33 and 38 modified DNA cleavage specificity relative to the 1-Crel meganuclease of SEQ ID NO: 70 in at least one nucleotide in the +/- 3 to 5 triplets.” Id. at 4. The Court “decline[d] to construe the first phrase of [this independent claim] without the context of the remainder of the claim. Id.

-“[M]odified DNA cleavage specificity relative to the 1-Crel meganuclease of SEQ ID NO: 70 in at least one nucleotide in the +/- 3 to 5 triplets.” Id. at 7.

-“A single-chain chimeric meganuclease comprising [a] fusion of [two monomers].” Id. at 7-8.

-“[V]ariant of the wild-type monomer from 1-Crel.” Id. at 8-9.

The Court then denied the parties’ motions for summary judgment as to literal infringement and as to no invalidity for anticipation. The parties’ experts disputed the “proper characterization of [defendant’s product]” and thus raised genuine issues of material fact as to literal infringement. Id. at 16. The Court also held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a piece of prior art “expressly disclose[d] all of the claim limitations and whether the specific substitutions [of the patent-in-suit] would be apparent to one of skill in the art.” Id. at 19.

Finally, the Court denied plaintiff’s Daubert motion to exclude defendant’s expert testimony on best mode and obviousness. Plaintiff argued that the expert’s opinions on best mode made improper inferences based on a limited amount of information, but the Court held that the opinions were “not unreliable or unhelpful, when measured by the relatively low standard at this stage of the proceedings, coupled with the highly subjective nature of the state of mind inquiry” involved in best mode analysis. Id. at 21. As to obviousness, plaintiff argued that the expert’s testimony, which included “his opinions on secondary considerations and motivation to combine and claim charts illustrating his findings,” was too conclusory, but the Court concluded that "[w]hile [plaintiff] may disagree with [this expert’s] analysis and conclusions . . . at most, this goes to the weight of the evidence, which is properly addressed via cross-examination.” Id. at 22.

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April 16, 2013

Judge Robinson Denies Motion to Amend Complaint and Motion to Stay Case

Judge Sue Robinson recently denied a patent infringement plaintiff’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint adding claims of induced infringement. See Walker Digital, LLC v. Google, Inc., C.A. No. 11-309-SLR, Memorandum Order at 1 (D. Del. Apr. 11, 2013). Although the plaintiff had included allegations of induced infringement in preliminary infringement contentions, it did not formally move to amend pleadings until significantly later, approximately nine months after the deadline for filing amended pleadings and a month before the close of fact discovery. The plaintiff asserted good cause for its amendment based on (1) the Federal Circuit’s decision in Akamai Techs., Inc. v. Limelight Networks, Inc., 692 F.3d 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2012), (2) defendants’ claim constructions raising the potential need to rely on inducement, and (3) the lack of undue prejudice. Id. at 2. Judge Robinson found that (1) Akamai was inapplicable because the plaintiff did not allege that only some steps were performed by third parties, (2) the defendants’ representations that they did not intend to assert a non-infringement argument based on claim constructions were acceptable and binding, and (3) there was no good cause for plaintiff to amend regardless of whether or not such an amendment would prejudice defendants. Accordingly, she denied the motion to amend. Id. at 2-4.

Judge Robinson also denied the defendants’ request to stay the case pending reexamination. Id. at 4. Between the filing of the motion to stay and Judge Robinson’s decision, the PTO issued an “Action Closing Prosecution” in an inter partes reexamination initiated by defendants, which rejected every claim of the patent-in-suit. Although “there [was] no dispute that a final resolution of the administrative process would simplify the judicial process, and that . . . the administrative process is less expensive than the judicial process,” Judge Robinson found that “the judicial process had proceeded far enough (and the administrative process has not) that a stay would unduly prejudice [the plaintiff.]” Id. at 4-6. The prejudice to plaintiff was not diminished by the fact that “is a non-practicing entity,” because “it is a research-oriented business that will be prejudiced if its rights under the [patent-in-suit] are not adjudicated timely” and there is “no reliable time table to conclusion” of the administrative process. Id. at 5.

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April 12, 2013

Judge Robinson issues decisions in Golden Bridge Technology Inc. v. Apple

Golden Bridge Technology (“GBT”) sued Apple and other defendants (the “Apple action”), and Amazon.com, Inc. and other defendants in two separate actions alleging infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,574,267 C1 and 7,359,427. The patents-in-suit “relate generally to wireless cellular networks and teach a method for establishing a communication link between a mobile station, such as a cellular telephone, and a base station.” Golden Bridge Technology Inc. v. Apple Inc., et al., C.A. Nos. 10-428-SLR, 11-165-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2013) (Claim Construction Memorandum Opinion). The cases were consolidated for claim construction but claims other than those against Apple were stayed.

Judge Robinson held oral argument on claim construction on March 19, 2013 and recently issued her claim construction Opinion, construing the following terms of the patents-in-suit:

“Access Preamble”/“Preamble”
“Discrete Power Level”

In construing “Access Preamble”/“Preamble,” the Court considered the estoppel effect of the construction of claims of the ‘267 patent in a prior suit filed by GBT in Texas against other defendants. The Court held that collateral estoppel was not applicable because the issues decided by the Texas Court were not identical to this case. Specifically, the ‘427 patent, although a related patent, was not issued until after the conclusion of the Texas case, and the ‘267 patent was reexamined after the Texas case concluded, resulting in different claims and additional prosecution history. Id. at 9.

Following the Court’s claim construction Opinion, Judge Robinson issued the Court’s Memorandum Opinion on Summary Judgment in the Apple Action. Golden Bridge Technology Inc. v. Apple Inc., et al., C.A. No. 10-428-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2013) (Summary Judgment Memorandum Opinion). Judge Robinson considered GBT’s motion for partial summary judgment of infringement and Apple’s motions for summary judgment of non-infringement and invalidity. Judge Robinson denied GBT’s motion and granted Apple’s motion as to non-infringement. Although Judge Robinson found that Apple’s accused products and related processes practiced “the ‘discrete power level’ limitation” of the asserted claims, GBT did not identify “a genuine issue of material fact regarding the limitation of ‘spreading the access preamble” or of a “spread across preamble.” Id. at 14-15. Therefore, summary judgment of non-infringement was appropriate.

In the Apple action, Judge Robinson also considered various motions to exclude and strike expert testimony. Golden Bridge Technology Inc. v. Apple Inc., et al., C.A. No. 10-428-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2013) (Memorandum Order). Apple moved to strike GBT’s untimely expert opinions and moved to exclude certain other expert opinions. Id. at 2. GBT also filed two Daubert motions. Id. The Court granted-in-part GBT’s Daubert motion that sought to exclude opinions on the inventors’ lack of diligence in preparing and filing the patent application, and failure to meet the written description requirements of 35 U.S.C. § 112. Judge Robinson excluded the expert’s opinions on diligence because the expert was not a patent attorney or an expert in patent law. Id. at 3. Judge Robinson denied Apple’s Daubert motion that sought to exclude an expert’s rebuttal opinion on validity, a rebuttal opinion on attorney diligence, and two experts’ opinions and untimely supplements regarding infringement. Id. at 4. The court granted Apple’s motion as to attorney diligence, finding it would not be helpful to the jury, because it was “based not on records but on speculation[.]” Id. Judge Robinson denied Apple’s motion in all other respects. Even though GBT’s experts’ infringement opinions were offered before the court issued its claim construction, the Court found that any disagreement between the opinions and the Court’s construction “is more properly reserved for cross-examination[.]” Id. at 5.

Finally the Court denied both GBT and Apple’s motions to exclude or strike testimony “regarding the definition of ‘bandwith.’” Id. at 6. The Court found the opinions admissible under Daubert, and any issues with the testimony could be dealt with on cross examination. Id. Furthermore, GBT’s “untimely” expert opinion was admissible because it was “necessary to respond to criticisms lodged by Apple’s expert . . . in his rebuttal report.” Id.

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April 11, 2013

Judge Robinson grants motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction over Japanese corporation and dismisses joint infringement claims against other defendants

In Intellectual Ventures I LLC, et al. v. Nikon Corporation, et al., C.A. No. 11-1025-SLR (D. Del. Apr. 1, 2013), Judge Sue L. Robinson granted one defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and granted-in-part the remaining defendants’ motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ indirect infringement claims.

Plaintiffs had sued four entities, all of which “are ‘Nikon Group Companies’ within . . . [defendant] Nikon Corporation.” Id. at 7. One of the defendants, Sendai, was a Japanese corporation that “manufacturers DSLR cameras and sells them to” Nikon Corporation, its parent that is also a Japanese corporation. Id. While the cameras were then sold in the United States, and Nikon Corporation and another co-defendant “maintain websites in English targeting the United States” and Delaware, Sendai itself conducted no business in the United States. Id. at 6, 7.

Plaintiffs argued that the Court had personal jurisdiction over Sendai based on “several theories,” all of which the Court rejected. Id. at 6. First, because Sendai was not a principal in an agency relationship with any co-defendants, but instead its “conduct [was] directed by its parent,” and because its conduct was “limited to activities in Japan,” plaintiffs had “not asserted sufficient contacts to establish personal jurisdiction” under an agency theory. Id. at 8-9. Second, plaintiffs could not assert jurisdiction “under a dual jurisdiction theory for stream-of-commerce activities in which subsection (1) and (4) of Delaware’s long-arm statute are partially satisfied,” which required a showing of “an intent to serve the Delaware market” and “that this intent results in the introduction of the product into the market.” Id. at 9 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). There was no indication that “Sendai ha[d] the requisite intent” to sell the cameras in Delaware because its manufacturing and sales were directed to its parent in Japan, its website was in Japanese, and “the cameras themselves offer menus in 20 languages and world time zones.” Id. at 10. “The court has not heretofore exerted dual jurisdiction over a foreign subsidiary based on such attenuated facts, and declines to do so in this case.” Id.

As to indirect infringement, the Court found that, “[c]onsistent with the court’s analysis" in Walker Digital LLC v. Facebook, Inc., 852 F. Supp. 2d 559, 565-66 (D. Del. 2012), plaintiffs’ induced infringement claims were facially plausible and provided defendants with adequate notice. Id. at 11. However it dismissed plaintiffs’ joint infringement claims. Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants “act[ed] alone and together to infringe,” with Nikon Corporation acting “as a mastermind over the other defendants and/or its customers.” Id. at 12. But as claims against Sendai had been dismissed, plaintiffs could not support joint infringement by alleging “Nikon Corporation, as a parent company, controls the distribution of the accused products manufactured by Sendai.” Id. Additionally, “[p]laintiffs [had] not alleged any relationship between the remaining defendants that could plausibly lead to a showing that Nikon Corporation exercises control or direction over its co-defendants.” Id.

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April 8, 2013

Judge Robinson Denies Request to Allow Damages Discovery before the Federal Circuit Rules on Liability

Judge Robinson recently issued a discovery order in the ongoing patent infringement dispute between Mobilemedia Ideas and Apple. Plaintiff Mobilemedia Ideas filed a request for “‘discovery necessary to allow the parties to be prepared to try the damages case’ as soon as possible after the court’s decision on the parties’ post-trial motions.” Judge Robinson denied the request, stating “[t]he court is not inclined to change its standard practice of bifurcating damages until the issue of liability has been decided by the Federal Circuit, until such time (if ever) the Federal Circuit requires the court to abandon said practice.” See Mobilemedia Ideas LLC v. Apple Inc., C.A. No. 10-258-SLR, Order at 1 (D. Del. Apr. 2, 2013).

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April 3, 2013

Judge Robinson Considers Motion to Transfer, Motion to Dismiss Indirect Infringement Claims

In a recent memorandum opinion, Judge Sue Robinson denied patent infringement defendants’ motion to transfer venue but granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss claims of indirect infringement. See Stephenson v. Game Show Network, LLC, C.A. No. 12-614-SLR, Memorandum Opinion at 1 (D. Del. Mar. 27, 2013).

Her decision on the motion to transfer was consistent with her practice in previous cases, including one relied on here, Helicos Biosciences Corp. v. Illumina, Inc., 858 F. Supp. 2d 367 (D. Del. 2012). Judge Robinson observed that a defendant’s state of incorporation—here Delaware—has always been a “predictable, legitimate venue for bringing suit” and that a “plaintiff’s choice of venue should not be lightly disturbed.” Id. at 2 (citations omitted). Accordingly, after considering all of the Third Circuit’s Jumara transfer factors, she found that the defendants had not “tipped the scales of justice in favor of transfer.” Id. at 11.

On the motion to dismiss, Judge Robinson found that a mere corporate relationship between two defendants was not sufficient evidence that one defendant intended the other to infringe and knew that such acts would constitute infringement. Such an allegation of contributory and induced infringement, she found, was insufficient under Rule 8 and should be dismissed. Id. at 12-13.

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April 2, 2013

Judge Robinson denies motion to dismiss or transfer and enjoins second-filed infringement action.

Judge Sue L. Robinson recently denied a defendant’s motion to dismiss a first-filed declaratory judgment action or, in the alternative, to transfer it to the Northern District of New York where a second-filed infringement action was pending. Trustco Bank v. Automated Transactions LLC, Civ. No. 12-613-SLR (D. Del. Mar. 27, 2013). After the parties' licensing negotiations broke down, the plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action in the District of Delaware, and within about three hours the defendant filed its own affirmative infringement action in the Northern District of New York. Id. at 2. The defendant then moved to dismiss the Delaware action, or in the alternative to transfer it to New York, and the plaintiff moved to enjoin the New York action. Id. at 1.

Judge Robinson explained that “[t]he Federal Circuit prefers ‘to apply in patent cases the general rule whereby the forum of the first-filed case is favored, unless considerations of judicial and litigant economy and the just and effective disposition of disputes, require otherwise.’” Id. at 3 (quoting Genentech, Inc. v. Eli Lilly and Co., 988 F.2d 931, 937 (Fed. Cir. 1993), rev’d on other grounds, Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277 (1995). To that end, the Court explained that the first-to-file rule should only be departed from in situations involving “bad faith, forum shopping, when the second-filed action has developed further than the initial suit, and when the first-filing party instituted suit in one forum in anticipation of the opposing party’s imminent suit in another, less favorable, forum.” Id. at 4.

The defendant first argued that the plaintiff’s bad faith negotiation tactics (alleged delay tactics intended to provide additional time to draft a declaratory judgment complaint) justified departing from the first-to-file rule. The Court rejected that argument, explaining that “[p]reparations for litigation during negotiations are commonplace and the court concludes that there is no evidence of bad faith.” Id. at 7. Further, the Court found that the plaintiff had justifiable reasons for choosing to file its declaratory judgment action in Delaware (including the defendant’s status as a Delaware entity with a history of litigating in Delaware), such that forum shopping was not an issue. Id. Finally, the Court did not view transferring the case to New York as compellingly favorable from a judicial economy standpoint given that the New York action was stayed pending resolution of the motion before the Court, and a related New York action was subject to a motion to transfer to the District of Delaware. Id. at 8.

The Court next considered whether it should exercise its discretion to transfer the action to New York under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), upon a consideration of the Jumara factors, and found that transfer was not warranted based on the information provided to the Court. Id. at 8-10. The Court explained that the plaintiff did not satisfy its “burden of overcoming the first-filed rule” or its “burden of persuading the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Jumara factors warrant transfer.” Id. at 11. As a result, the Court denied the defendant’s motion, and granted the plaintiff’s motion to enjoin the New York action. Id.

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March 29, 2013

Judge Robinson Denies Motion to Sever, Transfer to District of Kansas

Judge Robinson recently denied a patent infringement declaratory judgment defendant’s motion to sever and transfer venue to the District of Kansas. Plaintiff Cox filed a declaratory judgment action in the District of Delaware regarding twelve patents owned by Sprint. Cox filed that action after Sprint had filed infringement suits related to the same twelve patents against Cox and three other defendants in the District of Kansas. In the declaratory judgment suit, Cox also asserted infringement by Sprint of two of its patents, and Sprint answered and asserted counterclaims for infringement of seven additional Sprint patents. Sprint then filed a motion to sever and transfer to the District of Kansas, where Sprint alleged it had previously litigated five of the patents-in-suit and had relevant witnesses and documents. The Judge in Kansas then found that the District of Kansas did not have personal jurisdiction over Cox and that the case should be transferred to Delaware, but the parties did not indicate that this mooted the motion to transfer before the Delaware court. Accordingly, Judge Robinson considered the motion to transfer the Delaware action to Kansas. See Cox Comms. Inc. v. Sprint Comms. Co., C.A. No. 12-487-SLR, Memorandum Order at 1-2 (D. Del. Mar. 27, 2013).

Judge Robinson first found that “exceptional circumstances . . . warrant[ed] departure from the first-to-file rule.” The case, she explained, “is unusual in that the alleged first-filed case, the Kansas litigation, has been transferred to this court. Accordingly, that litigation would be streamlined by having this court also resolve the declaratory judgment claims related to the same patents.” Id. at 4.

Judge Robinson then considered transfer pursuant to § 1404. Relying on her decision in Helicos Biosciences Corp. v. Illumina, Inc., 858 F. Supp. 2d 367 (D. Del. 2012), Judge Robinson observed that a defendant’s state of incorporation—here Delaware—has always been a “predictable, legitimate venue for bringing suit” and that a “plaintiff’s choice of venue should not be lightly disturbed.” Id. at 5 (citations omitted). Accordingly, after considering all of the Third Circuit’s Jumara transfer factors and because “the Kansas litigation has been transferred [to Delaware], the court [found] that the Jumara factors do not weigh in favor of transferring the Cox . . . declaratory judgment claims back to Kansas.” Id. at 6-8. Despite the three other Sprint cases remaining in Kansas, Judge Robinson determined that given “the transfer of [the Cox] case and the Kansas court’s lack of personal jurisdiction over Cox Communications, Sprint [had not] carried its burden of persuading the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Jumara factors favor transfer.” Id. at 9.

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