Richards Layton & Finger
 

Judge Sleet Grants Motion to Transfer Venue to California

May 31, 2017

In Blackbird Tech LLC d/b/a Blackbird Technologies v. TuffStuff Fitness International, Inc., C.A. No. 16-733-GMS (D. Del. Apr. 27, 2017), Judge Sleet granted the defendant’s motion to transfer the case from the District of Delaware to the Central District of California. The defendant’s motion had requested that the Court dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, transfer venue to the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). While the Court did not address the merits of the motion to dismiss, Judge Sleet ultimately granted the defendant’s request to transfer venue because the Jumara factors of defendant’s choice of forum, situs of the claims, convenience to the parties, access to proof and evidence, and congestion in the respective courts all favored transfer.

While Judge Sleet noted that the Court must accord some deference to the plaintiff’s choice of forum in Delaware, that weight was reduced by the fact that Delaware was merely the plaintiff’s place of incorporation (and not its principal place of business), and that the plaintiff was a non-practicing entity with “minimal connections to Delaware.” In contrast, the Central District of California was where the defendant operated its principal place of business and had its headquarters. In addition, the products at issue in the litigation were designed in California, and none were sold in Delaware. The Court also determined that the plaintiff would suffer only minor inconvenience if the case was transferred to California, while the Delaware forum would cause the defendant “at least moderate inconvenience,” considering the distance between the two states and the witnesses that the respective parties would have to bring to trial. In all, the Court held that the defendant met its burden of demonstrating that the interests of justice and convenience strongly favored transfer.

Key Points: The status of a party as a non-practicing entity may play a role in the Court’s decision to transfer.