Carolina Calling: Sources of Proof Favor Transfer

By on February 8, 2024
Posted In Patents

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit vacated a district court order denying transfer, finding that the sources of proof, compulsory process and localized interest factors all favored transfer. In re Honeywell Int’l Inc., Case No. 23-152 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 26, 2024) (Dyk, Bryson, Taranto, JJ.) (per curiam) (nonprecedential)

Lone Star SCM Systems filed a lawsuit against Honeywell in the Western District of Texas, Waco Division (West Texas) asserting infringement of four patents related to radio frequency identification technology. Honeywell moved to transfer the suit to the Western District of North Carolina (West Carolina), where Hand Held Products, a Honeywell subsidiary that designed, manufactured, imported and sold certain accused products, is headquartered. Honeywell argued that it had identified five potential Hand Held witnesses who would be subject to the transferee’s subpoena power and that relevant and material evidence would be more likely to exist in the transferee district.

The district court denied Honeywell’s motion. The district court analyzed public- and private-interest factors outlined in the Fifth Circuit’s 2008 In re Volkswagen of Am. decision and concluded that although Lone Star could have brought its suit in West Carolina, Honeywell had failed to demonstrate that West Carolina was clearly more convenient. The district court acknowledged that the bulk of the evidence was located in West Carolina but ultimately concluded that the convenience to potential party witnesses favored West Texas, pointing to several Lone Star witnesses who resided in the Northern District of Texas. The court found that the public-interest factors were neutral or similarly offsetting. The district court also found that West Carolina’s local interest favored transfer, but judicial efficiency did not because a transfer would have required relocating this suit away from two co-pending Lone Star infringement suits.

Honeywell petitioned the Federal Circuit for a writ of mandamus. The Federal Circuit determined that the district court’s denial of Honeywell’s transfer motion was patently erroneous. The Federal Circuit explained that the district court’s findings regarding potential party witness convenience and judicial efficiency were contrary to recent Fifth Circuit and Federal Circuit precedent. Regarding the potential party witnesses, the Federal Circuit cited the Fifth Circuit’s 2023 In re TikTok decision, explaining that it was improper to place witnesses residing outside of West Texas but still within the state of Texas on par with those residing in West Carolina. Regarding judicial efficiency, the Federal Circuit found that Lone Star’s position differed little from the circumstances that the Federal Circuit considered in its 2021 In re Samsung Elecs. decision, where the other suits involved different defendants with different hardware and software. Consistent with Samsung, the Federal Circuit concluded that Lone Star’s co-pending suits did not favor West Texas because the other cases were likely to involve significantly different discovery, evidence and issues. The Federal Circuit vacated the district court’s decision and ordered the district court to grant Honeywell’s transfer motion.

Benjamin Ediger, Ph.D.
Benjamin (Ben) Ediger, PhD focuses his practice on intellectual property transactions and patent counseling in the life sciences space, along with patent litigation and patent prosecution across a range of diverse technologies. Read Ben Ediger's full bio.