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Rehrig Pacific Co. v. Polymer Logistics (Israel), Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

June 6, 2019

REHRIG PACIFIC COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
POLYMER LOGISTICS (ISRAEL), LTD. and POLYMER LOGISTICS, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

         Before the Court is Defendants Polymer Logistics (Israel), Ltd. ("Polymer Israel") and Polymer Logistics, Inc.'s ("Polymer US" collectively "Polymer") motion to transfer venue. (Doc. No. 19.) Polymer's motion seeks to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons set forth below, Polymer's motion to transfer is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Rehrig Pacific Company ("Rehrig") filed this action alleging patent infringement against Polymer for its "RPC Eggs" crates (the "Accused Products"), a reusable and collapsible container used for storage, shipping, and retail display in the egg industry. (See Am. Compl., Doc. No. 13, ¶¶ 26-39.) Rehrig is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Los Angeles, California, yet, it filed this action in the Dublin Division of the Southern District of Georgia. (Id. ¶ 1.) While Polymer U.S. maintains a facility in Dublin, it is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Tampa, Florida.[1] (Id. ¶ 3; Defs.' Br., Doc. No. 19-1, at 3 n.2.) Polymer Israel is an Israeli corporation with its principal place of business in Hod Hasharon, Israel. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2.) Although Polymer Israel is a foreign corporation, it was registered to do business in California until August 3, 2018, one week after this lawsuit was filed. (Decl. of Gideon Feiner ("Feiner Decl."), Doc. No. 42-1, ¶ 2.)

         Rehrig alleges that Polymer infringed five of its patents by making, using, importing, selling, and offering for sale the Accused Products that "blatantly copy[] patented features" of Rehrig's own reusable egg containers. (Id. ¶ 34-50.) Polymer US, unlike Rehrig, maintains its own facilities that receive used egg containers from its customers, wash the containers, and ship the sanitized containers back to customers to be reused. (See First Decl. of Nany Walsh ("First Walsh Decl."), Doc. No. 19-2, ¶ 7.) Polymer U.S. maintains five wash facilities in the United States, including one in Dublin, Georgia and one in Riverside, California, which is its "largest and busiest" facility. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.)

         Polymer Israel and Polymer U.S. are separate corporations, each controlled by distinct boards of directors and executive teams. (See First Decl. of Danit Cohen ("First Cohen Decl."), Doc. No. 17-2, ¶¶ 9-15.) Polymer Israel researched, developed, designed, and manufactured the Accused Products in Israel. (Second Decl. of Danit Cohen ("Second Cohen Decl."), Doc. No. 19-3, ¶¶ 2-3.) Polymer Israel sells the Accused Products to Polymer U.S. in what each contends are arm's length transactions.[2] (First Cohen Decl. ¶ 15; Second Decl. of Nancy Walsh ("Second Walsh Decl."), Doc. No. 17-3, ¶ 9.) Polymer U.S. then contracts with customers in the United States to lease the Accused Products. (First Walsh Decl. ¶ 2.) Polymer Israel does not control how, where, and to whom Polymer U.S. distributes the Accused Products. (Feiner Decl. ¶ 4.) Polymer Israel's CEO, however, has visited California on multiple occasions to assist Polymer US's business development, including formulating sales and marketing strategies and attending meetings with customers. (Id. ¶ 5.)

         After Rehrig amended its complaint, Polymer filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim (doc. no. 18) and a motion to transfer venue (doc. no. 19) . Polymer Israel also filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, with an alternative request to transfer the action to the Central District of California in lieu of dismissing it from the case. (Doc. No. 17.) Because the Court concludes that transfer under Section 1404(a) is proper, as discussed below, I will not take up the other two pending motions.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) provides that "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." Consistent with the statute, a party moving under Section 1404(a) to transfer venue must first show the action could have been brought in the proposed transfer forum. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a); Aeroquip Corp. v. Deutsch Co., 887 F.Supp. 293, 294 (S.D. Ga. 1995).

         The moving party must then prove that transfer will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses as well as the interests of justice. See Internap Corp. v. Noction Inc., 114 F.Supp.3d 1336, 1339 (N.D.Ga. 2015). Nine factors guide the Court's analysis on this issue: (1) the convenience of the witnesses; (2) the location of relevant documents and the relative ease of access to sources of proof; (3) the convenience of the parties; (4) the locus of operative facts; (5) the availability of process to compel the attendance of unwilling witnesses; (6) the relative means of the parties; (7) a forum's familiarity with the governing law; (8) the weight accorded to a plaintiff's choice of forum; and (9) trial efficiency and the interests of justice, based on the totality of the circumstances. Id.; see also Manuel v. Convergys Corp., 430 F.3d 1132, 1135 n.l (11th Cir. 2005).

         A district court is given wide discretion to "adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (internal quotation omitted). However, a court may not simply "shift inconvenience from the defendant to the plaintiff." Internap, 114 F.Supp.3d at 1339.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Polymer moved under Section 1404 (a) to transfer this case from the Southern District of Georgia to the United States District Court for the Central District of California. (Doc. No. 19.) In essence, Polymer contends the parties have a limited connection to this District, California would be more convenient for potential witnesses, and the facts underlying the alleged infringement did not occur in this District.

         A. The Transferee Forum

         The Court must first determine whether Rehrig could have brought this action in the Central District of California. An action may have been brought in a proposed transferee court if: "(1) the court had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action; (2) venue is proper there; and (3) the defendant is amenable to process issuing out of the transferee court." Suomen Colorize Oy v. DISH Network L.L.C., 801 F.Supp.2d 1334, 1337 (M.D. Fla. 2011).

         Quite obviously, the Central District of California would have subject matter jurisdiction over this case the same as in this Court because the cause of action, patent infringement, arises under federal law. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1338. The Central District of California would also have personal jurisdiction over both Polymer entities. Polymer U.S. maintains its "largest and busiest" wash facility in Riverside, California and formerly maintained its headquarters there. (First Walsh Decl. ¶ 8.) Polymer US's CFO admits that the company has maintained a physical presence in California since 2007. (Id.)

         Polymer Israel, by its own admission, is also subject to personal jurisdiction in California. Polymer Israel, incorporated and headquartered in Israel, has limited contacts with the United States, with no employees or offices in this country. However, some of Polymer Israel's marketing and sales of the Accused Products were conducted in California, providing sufficient minimum contacts for the Central District of California to have specific jurisdiction over Polymer Israel. (See Feiner Decl. ¶ 5.) Moreover, until August 3, 2018, one week after Rehrig filed its complaint, Polymer Israel was registered to do business in California. (Id. ¶ 2.) Finally, although not determinative in of itself, Polymer stated it will not challenge personal jurisdiction or venue in the Central District of California. (Defs.' Br. at 7 n.7.)

         Regarding venue, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) requires patent suits to be filed in the judicial district where either the defendant resides or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business. Unlike other types of federal actions, patent infringement cases require venue to be proper for each individual defendant. See Stontite Prods. Co. v. Melvin Lloyd Co., 315 U.S. 561, 567 (1942). Although Section 1400(b) is the exclusive provision controlling venue for patent actions, the Supreme Court has held that "suits against aliens are wholly outside the operation of all the federal venue law, general and special." Brunette Mach. Works Ltd. v. Kockum Indus., Inc., 406 ...


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