The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered nearly twenty patent cases pending across six districts (including Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and the Northern and Southern districts of California) and involving fifteen different companies to proceed collectively in the Northern District of California.  The decision may be a drawback for plaintiff Protegrity Corporation which originally moved the Panel to transfer all of the cases to the District of Connecticut for Markman proceedings.  The cases consist of ten patent infringement and eight declaratory judgment actions.  Protegrity’s motion was filed on November 7, 2014, and the argument before the Panel took place on January 29, 2015, in Miami, Florida.

The cases involve two patents – US 8,402,281, titled “Data Security System for a Database,” and US 6,321,201, titled “Data Security System for a Database Having Multiple Encryption levels Applicable on a Data Element Value Level.”  In its motion, Protegrity argued that in order to prevent unnecessary delay and maximize judicial efficiency, the cases should be transferred to the District of Connecticut before the Honorable Robert Chatigny who, according to Protegrity, is familiar with the patents from previous litigations dating to 2008, and has relied on the expertise of a Technical Advisor to aid in understanding the technology.  Notably, Protegrity’s motion to transfer came after some defendants who were originally sued in Connecticut (Dataguise, Inc. and Informatica Corp.) successfully moved for a change of venue to the Northern District of California. Protegrity’s motion sought to bring them back.

The various defendants took split approaches to the motion, with several agreeing to centralization but suggesting the Northern District of California as the appropriate venue rather than Connecticut.  Others of the defendants simply opposed centralization, arguing that there are no common questions of fact because, in part, each defendant technology is different and the cases are at different stages.

In transferring the cases to California, the Panel found that each of the pending actions involve common questions of fact and that centralization in the Northern District of California “will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation.”  The Panel further noted that “[c]entralization will eliminate duplicative discovery and prevent inconsistent pretrial rulings … as well as conserve the resources of the parties, their counsel and the judiciary.”  In its order, the Panel also explicitly rejected Protegrity’s position that the cases should be centralized only for claim construction – instead leaving it to the recipient district judge to determine the exact structure of the MDL proceedings.

The case may be an indicator of the Panel’s future leanings as it noted that the Northern District of California was appropriate, not only due to the convenience of the parties, but also because – unlike Connecticut – it “is a Patent Pilot Program Court that has adopted local Patent Rules, and the district is highly familiar with complex technological patent litigation.”  Of course, as we all know, the only way to gain experience is to get experience, so such a transfer may only serve to reinforce the possible disparity among districts in familiarity with patent litigation.  The order can be found here.