Out of three patent infringement cases filed in August 2012 by Joao Bock Transactional Systems, LLC (“JBTS”) in the Northern District of Georgia, one case was transferred to the Northern District of California, one case has just now been transferred to the Northern District of Illinois, and one case has a motion pending for transfer to the Eastern District of Missouri.
On March 29, 2013, the Northern District of Georgia entered an order granting a motion to transfer the case to the Northern District of Illinois. Defendant OptionsHouse, LLC (“OptionsHouse”) had filed that motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), on the grounds that Chicago is its principal place of business, that none of the likely trial witnesses or documents are located within the Northern District of Georgia, and that “only 2.7% of its customers reside in Georgia.” Additionally, OptionsHouse pointed out that JBTS had filed another lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois, involving one of the three patents it asserted against OptionsHouse.
In resisting OptionHouse’s motion, JBTS argued that a transfer would merely shift the inconvenience of forum choice to JBTS, that its litigation counsel is in Atlanta, and that keeping all three of its August 2012 cases in the Northern District of Georgia1 would promote judicial economy.
As of December 10, 2012, when JBTS had filed its opposition brief, all three of its August 2012 cases were still in the Northern District of Georgia. That status changed on January 3, 2013, when the court transferred JBTS’ case against Charles Schwab & Co. to the Northern District of California. Furthermore, a motion is pending to transfer JBTS’ case against Scottrade, Inc. to the Eastern District of Missouri. The briefing on that motion concluded on December 27, 2012.
Addressing JBTS’ arguments following its recitation of the recognized transfer factors and its summary of OptionsHouse’s arguments, the court reasoned:
Plaintiff’s argument that transferring this case to Illinois would shift the burden from Defendant to Plaintiff is unconvincing. Plaintiff appears to be arguing that it is better to inconvenience the witnesses of both parties by keeping the case in this District than to inconvenience only Plaintiff’s witnesses by transferring the case to the Northern District of Illinois. This argument does not stand up to scrutiny. Certainly, the Court would prefer to reduce the burden of participation on at least some of the witnesses in this case than to compel those witnesses to travel simply because travel is inevitable for the other side.2
Specifically concerning JBTS’ arguments regarding judicial economy, the court noted the January 3 transfer of the Charles Schwab case.
It also agreed with OptionsHouse that the Northern District of Illinois’ familiarity with one of the patents-in-suit weighed in favor of transfer: “‘familiarity with one of the patents-in-suit is obviously better than a complete lack of familiarity with any of them, which is the current position of the Northern District of Georgia.’”3 That, the court concluded, coupled with the weight of other applicable transfer factors, “counsels in favor of granting OptionHouse’s Motion.”4
The court also rejected JBTS’ alternative argument that if a transfer was warranted, transfer should be made to the District of Delaware, reiterating that “[t]he locus of operative facts and relevant documentation in this case are in the Northern District of Illinois,” which is familiar with one of the asserted patents. It remarked that the Northern District of Illinois could choose to transfer the case to the District of Delaware, in its discretion, since another JBTS case involving another of the asserted patents is in its early stages there.
Directing the Clerk of Court to close the case in light of the granting of the motion to transfer, the court denied the defendants’ pending dismissal motions as moot.
Note: Outside of the three cases mentioned above, JBTS filed a total of 4 cases in the Northern District of Georgia, in January 2013, against banks and a credit union. See our January 22 post for details.
The case transferred was Joao Bock Transaction Systems, LLC v. OptionsHouse, LLC and Peak6 Investments, L.P., No. 1:12-cv-02859-AT, filed 08/17/12 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, and had been assigned to U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg.