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Fed. Cir. Again Hits West Texas Judge Albright on Venue Calls

Nov. 15, 2021, 8:57 PM

Atlassian Corp., Alphabet Inc.‘s Google, and Apple Inc. won’t have to fight infringement suits in Waco, Texas, after the Federal Circuit’s issued another round of decisions ordering Judge Alan Albright to relinquish patent cases.

The orders are the latest in a recent series from the Federal Circuit disagreeing with Albright’s analysis of transfer requests.

The companies were all sued in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas. Albright denied their motions to send the cases to the the Northern District of California.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted the companies’ mandamus petitions. It faulted Albright for denying the motions based on his court’s expected time to trial, after he found the federal court in California was otherwise more convenient.

The appeals court, in a fourth order Monday, dismissed Meraki Integrated Circuit Technology Ltd.'s mandamus petition as moot. Judge Todd M. Hughes took issue with Albright’s amended order refusing to transfer the case in a concurring opinion.

Three Grants

Atlassian and Google challenged Albright’s refusal to deny suits filed against them by Express Mobile Inc. Express alleged Atlassian infringed several patents with its Jira, Confluence, and Trello software. It alleged Google infringed with Google Ads, Google Slides, and Google Docs.

Both companies argued the Northern District of California would be more convenient due to the location of potential witness and evidence.

In both cases, Albright agreed that the proposed venue had an advantage in terms of convenience, but decided against the transfers after determining his court could likely adjudicate the cases faster.

The Federal Circuit criticized several of the findings in Albright’s orders, and reminded him of its earlier rulings that time-to-trial shouldn’t be given more weight than the other transfer considerations.

Albright also relied on court congestion as the deciding factor in the Apple case. In that case, Neonode Smartphone LLC accused Apple’s iPhone and iPad products of infringing two user interface patents. The Federal Circuit ordered him to send that case to the Northern District of California as well.

‘Incongruous Findings’

Monolithic Power Systems Inc. and Chengdu Monolithic Power Systems Co. sued Meraki in the Western District of Texas for for patent infringement, trade secret appropriation, tortious interference, and unfair competition. Meraki sought mandamus relief from Albright’s order denying transfer to the Northern District of California.

While the petition was pending, Albright reconsidered his earlier order denying transfer, but reached the same result. Meraki told the Federal Circuit the mandamus petition on the first order was no longer necessary but that it planned to seek the court’s review of the amended order.

The Federal Circuit dismissed the petition but Hughes wrote a separate concurrence “to note the incongruous findings on jurisdiction in the district court’s new order.”

Albright’s initial transfer denial found that the threshold requirement for transfer—that the suit could have been brought in the Northern District of California—was met. In his amended order, Albright said Meraki didn’t carry its burden of establishing that it is subject to jurisdiction in that court.

The second order said Meraki showed the Northern District of California is “clearly more convenient,” but still denied transfer because Meraki couldn’t make it past the threshold requirement.

Albright “inexplicably changes course” even though there are no new facts in the case, Hughes said.

Hughes left the ball in Albright’s court: “I trust that the district court will fully explain the incongruous findings on jurisdiction in its new order,” he said.

Judges Timothy B. Dyk, Sharon Prost, and Hughes served on the motions panel that considered the four petitions.

The cases are In re Atlassian Corp., Fed. Cir., No. 21-177, mandamus granted 11/15/21; In re Google LLC, Fed. Cir., No. 21-178, mandamus granted 11/15/21; In re Meraki Integrated Circuit (Shenzhen) Tech., Fed. Cir., No. 21-180, mandamus dismissed 11/15/21; and In re Apple Inc., Fed. Cir., No. 21-181, mandamus granted 11/15/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at pcooper@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bloomberglaw.com

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