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Magistrate Judge Burke Recommends Transfer of Venue for Video Game Cases

Magistrate Judge Burke recently issued a report and recommendation recommending that four related cases be transferred to the Central District of California. The parties to the cases are involved in computer graphics and video game software, and the patents-in-suit relate to lip-synchronization for animated computer graphics characters used in video games. The defendants in four of thirteen related cases moved to transfer to the Central District of California, and the plaintiff opposed and asked in the alternative for jurisdictional discovery. Both the plaintiff and all four defendants are incorporated in Delaware but have primary places of business in California. Additionally, the plaintiff has sixteen similar cases pending in the Central District of California, all of which were filed shortly after the Delaware actions. McRO, Inc., d/b/a Planet Blue v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 12-1508-LPS-CJB, Report and Recommendation at 2-5 (D. Del. Dec. 13, 2013).

Judge Burke considered the factors articulated by the Third Circuit in Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873 (3d Cir. 1995) and ultimately found that a transfer was warranted. Judge Burke found that only the plaintiff’s choice of forum weighed against transfer. Weighing in favor of transfer to varying degrees were the following factors: the defendants’ forum preference, whether the claim arose elsewhere, convenience of the parties, convenience of the witnesses, location of books and records, and administrative difficulties in getting the case to trial. Neutral factors included: enforceability of judgment, Practical considerations that could make the trial easy, expeditious, or inexpensive, local interests in deciding local controversies at home, and public policy of the fora. Id. at 7-30. Thus, the Court found that “the balance of convenience is strongly in [defendants’] favor” and recommended that the motion to transfer be granted and the request for jurisdictional discovery be denied. Id. at 30-33. Judge Burke recognized that “[t]he issue is not free from doubt, and the Court recognizes the significance of the parties’ choice of Delaware as their State of incorporation and the fact that there are related cases pending here. However, those connections do not sufficiently counterbalance the substantial ties between the Central District and these cases, as is reflected in the number of Jumara factors weighing in favor of transfer.” Id. at 31.

Judge Burke’s Report and Recommendation included an interesting discussion of the plaintiff’s “home turf” as it relates to the plaintiff’s choice of forum factor. Ultimately, Judge Burke determined that the Court “will not and need not resolve this question, as a determination as to whether Delaware is McRo’s ‘home turf,’ in and of itself, has no independent significance regarding the overall Jumara balance of convenience analysis, nor to the analysis as to this first Jumara private interest factor. The cases from this Court originally referencing a plaintiffs ‘home turf’ in the transfer context explained that the burden of proof for a defendant seeking transfer ‘is no less where plaintiff is litigating away from its home turf.’ That is, regardless of whether this District is or is not a plaintiff’s ‘home turf,’ the same overarching standard set out by the Third Circuit for considering a transfer motion applies—the defendant must show that the balance of convenience is strongly in its favor in order to justify a transfer of venue. Nor is reference to a plaintiffs “home turf” in this context meant to suggest that if a plaintiff is (or is not) suing on its ‘home turf,’ then as to the first Jumara private interest factor, a plaintiffs choice of forum should automatically be given any set amount of weight. Instead, such a reference is really nothing more than a short-hand way of noting that, when a court balances the relative convenience of different fora as part of a transfer analysis, the ‘the weaker the connection between the forum and either the plaintiff or the lawsuit, the greater the ability of a defendant to show sufficient inconvenience to warrant transfer.’” Id. at 8 n.8 (citations omitted).

Finally, Judge Burke also noted “a split of authority in the courts as to whether a motion to transfer venue should be treated as a dispositive or non-dispositive motion.” Therefore “[i]n an abundance of caution, the Court [titled its opinion] as a ‘Report and Recommendation.’” Id. at 2 n.2.

McRO, Inc., d/b/a Planet Blue v. Activision Blizzard, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 12-1508-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Dec….

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