We thought that Texas judges would get the idea after the Federal Circuit slapped them around last year for not transferring patent cases that had no earthly reason for being there except that it’s a plaintiff-friendly district.
But noooooo! Today, the Federal Circuit, which handles all appeals in patent cases, declared (.pdf) that Eastern District of Texas Judge David Folsom’s court “clearly abused its discretion” by denying pharma giant Hoffman-La Roche’s motion to transfer in its patent fight with Novartis.
Last year, the Fed Circuit said the same nasty thing to Judge John Ward when he denied TS Tech Co.'s motion to transfer its patent fight with Lear Corp. to a more convenient venue in Ohio.
The facts of the current case are this: Novartis sued Hoffman-La Roche in Texas. Hoffman-La Roche, represented by Fried Frank, protested saying that all the witnesses and evidence were nearer to the Eastern District of North Carolina. Well, Novartis’ lawyers at MoFo said that witnesses and sources of proof were actually spread about the country. Judge Folsom agreed, and kept the case in Texas. Hoffman-La Roche shot for a writ of mandamus and the Fed Circuit granted it. Here’s the salient passage from Judge Arthur Gajarsa:
The Eastern District of North Carolina’s interest in this matter is self-evident. Meanwhile, it is undisputed that this case has no relevant factual connection to the Eastern District of Texas. The district court ignored this significant contrast, reasoning that “where a number of private interest factors weigh heavily in one direction, that venue has a slightly greater local interest,” but “[w]here, however, the factors do not weigh heavily in one direction of [sic] the other, no one venue has more or less a meaningful connection to the case than any other.” By relying exclusively on how other forum non conveniens factors weigh, rather than assessing the locale’s connection to the cause of action, the district court essentially rendered this factor meaningless. Therefore, because the Eastern District of North Carolina has a meaningful local interest in adjudicating the dispute and no meaningful connection exists with the Eastern District of Texas, this factor also favors transfer.
— Zusha Elinson