A federal judge has given a gentle slap on the wrist to Nuance Communications and its lawyers at Wilson Sonsini for forum shopping in a patent case.
It’s well-known that plaintiffs in patent infringement cases file in courts they feel will be to their advantage, like the Eastern District of Texas or Western District of Wisconsin.
In this case, Nuance filed suit in Wisconsin against Abbyy Software House in January. But Judge John Shabaz suffered an injury in February and transferred his caseload to the only remaining judge in the district, Nuance refiled in the Central District of California. But then Abbyy got the case transferred to the Northern District of California in June after Judge Howard Matz found the suit had “minimal connections” to the Central District.
Abbyy’s lawyers at Foley & Lardner said they were tired of running around the country and so they filed motion for attorney fees because of forum shopping. In all they wanted about $27,000 for work they said was wasted.
Northern District Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James nailed Nuance for forum shopping, but she wasn’t keen on granting attorney fees to the Foley lawyers.
In an order (.pdf) yesterday, James wrote “While Nuance argues that selection of a forum based on the speed of its docket should not be considered forum shopping, Judge Matz already made the determination that it is.”
She further chastised Nuance for picking the Western District of Wisconsin and the Central District of California: “By its own words, Nuance’s choice of Wisconsin and the Central District had little, if anything to do with the merits of the case. Nuance selected the Western District of Wisconsin for its short time to trial; when that tactic eluded Nuance because of the injury to Judge Shabaz, Nuance filed in the Central District of California, also for its “speed to trial.”
Still, Judge James was hardly inclined to make Nuance pay to the Foley lawyers. Instead She cut the $27,000 request to $11,375.
So there you have it. Forum shop all you like, but it’ll cost the price of a nice half arab western pleasure mare, which you could’ve used to ride from here to Wisconsin of Texas.
— Zusha Elinson