Mobilemedia Ideas, LLC v. HTC Corp., 2:10cv112 (E.D. Tex. 9/15/11)
Judge: T. John Ward
Holding: Motion to Tranfer Venue DENIED without prejudice to refiling
Well, I thought I'd seen everything, but apparently not. Judge Ward denied the motion to transfer in this case, holding that there was not yet a factual record that showed that HTC had (or had not) met its burden of showing that its requested transferee forum was "clearly more convenient" for two reasons.
First of all, when the case was filed, Defendant HTC America was incorporated in Texas and had its principal place of business in Texas. Six months later it moved its principal place of business to Washington State, and a few weeks later filed this motion. Judge Ward noted that "it appears that HTC may be attempting to manipulate venue, which has been discouraged by recent Federal Circuit cases" citing In re Zimmer. But even if it were not, he observed that HTC had not explained why the Court shouldn't consider the venue facts as they existed when the case was filed, as opposed to after a party makes a change of location. (Judge Ward doesn't explicitly note this here, but the date of filing was noted to be a fact of significance in In re Volkswagen, and as I'll explain at a HIPLA seminar next month in HTC's former home of Houston, eventually matured into the joinder provision in the recent patent legislation in much the same way that the little iguana swimming near the beach at Bikini Atoll matured into Godzilla at the beginning of the 1998 movie. Or something like that. I'm still working on my metaphors, as you can tell. Maybe it's more like early and late Elvis. Have to think about that one some more).
Anyway, second, Judge Ward noted that there had not been sufficient discovery into the extent of HTC's activities in Texas, or on why it changed its location and citizenship after the suit was filed. Judge Ward accordingly ordered discovery limited to: (1) the circumstances surrounding the move of HTC America’s Houston, Texas principal place of business and the change in HTC America’s legal status and (2) information regarding the details of HTC’s former and current operations in Texas, including current employees in Texas". HTC can refile its motion to transfer in sixty days and again attempt to make a showing that its proposed transferee forum is "clearly more convenient" once the relevant discovery has taken place. Judge Ward made clear that he had not decided one way or the other whether the showing could be made - just that it had not yet been, but the necessary discovery needed to take place first.
In other words, Judge Ward is sending the analysis down the tracks the Federal Circuit has laid in allowing discovery to determine why the change was made, so that on reurging his successor can determine whether the required showing has been made - and what effect the manipulation - if any such occurred - has on the analysis. Maybe HTC just couldn't take the humidity. Or they just really like rain. Hard to say.
And here's a fascinating little fact the opinion discloses. Yes, HTC moved its shop six months after the case was filed and only a few weeks before filing its motion. But it had given notice to its landlord in Texas that it was going to move from the offices it was currently using a few days before the case was filed. Hmmmm. This ought to be interesting.