In re Apple: Vague Identification of Sources of Information Not Enough to Support Transfer of Venue

Category: Civil Procedure 


By: Jesus Hernandez, Blog Editor/Contributor 

TitleIn re Apple, Misc. No. 156 (Feb. 27, 2014).
IssueThe question before the court on mandamus is whether there was such a “‘clear’ abuse of discretion” that refusing transfer would produce a “patently erroneous result[,]” [when the requesting party vaguely identifies witnesses and sources of information].
In re Apple at *3 (text added, internal citations omitted).
HoldingBased on the sparse, and general, record before the district court[, including vague identification of witnesses and sources of information], we cannot say “that the facts and circumstances are without any basis for a judgment of discretion.” […]
Id. at *5 (text added, internal citations omitted).


Procedural HistoryApple moved to transfer the case to the Northern District of California. The district court denied the motion, finding “that Apple ha[d] not met its burden of establish- ing that the Northern District of California is ‘clearly more convenient’” than the Eastern District of Texas. Core Wireless Licensing, S.A.R.L. v. Apple, Inc., No. 6:12- CV-100, slip op at 5 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 22, 2013) (“Transfer Order”). The court emphasized the lack of specificity in Apple’s assertions as to why the transfer factors favored the Northern District of California. Apple subsequently filed a motion to supplement the record. The district court denied the motion, noting that “[t]here is no indication that all of this relevant information was not accessible at the time Apple had filed its transfer motion.” […] Apple then filed a motion for reconsideration, which was denied. […].
In re Apple at *2-3.

Legal Reasoning (Reyna, Prost)
Legal StandardWe will only disturb the district court’s decision if it is clear “that the facts and circumstances are without any basis for a judg- ment of discretion.” Volkswagen, 545 F.3d at 317 n.7 (quoting McGraw-Edison Co. v. Van Pelt, 350 F.2d 361, 363 (8th Cir. 1965)).
In re Apple at *3.
Will Not Disturb District court if Transfer Request based on Vague Identification of Witnesses/Sources
Vague Identification[T]he [district] court noted that it was unable to evaluate the convenience of witnesses in its transfer analysis because of Apple’s failure to identify willing witnesses who would need to travel to the Eastern District of Texas or any third party witnesses not subject to the compulsory process of that court. Similarly, in light of “Apple’s vague assertions and unknown relevance and location of potential sources,” the district court was unable to weigh the relative ease of access to sources of proof factor in its transfer analysis, because “the weighing of this factor would be merely speculative.”
In re Apple at *3-4 (text added).
No Error by District CourtNothing suggests the district court conducted an improper transfer analysis. The district court simply determined that the evidence before the court was so general in nature that the court was unable to evaluate its relevance in the transfer analysis. Based on the sparse, and general, record before the district court,3 we cannot say “that the facts and circumstances are without any basis for a judgment of discretion.” Volkswagen, 545 F.3d at 317 n.7. Accordingly, we will not overturn the court’s conclusion that Apple failed to submit sufficient evidence to suggest that transfer was appropriate.
Id. at *4-5.
Distinguishing GenentechThe dissent analogizes the facts of In re Genentech, 566 F.3d 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2009). In that case, however, the petitioner identified at least ten specific witnesses in the transferee forum, two of which were attorneys responsible for the prosecution of the patents-in-suit, and at least four additional witnesses with relevant knowledge that were located outside of the original venue but within the transferee venue. See id. at 1343. We decline to find that the district court was “patently erroneous” based only on inferences drawn from the number of employees at Apple’s headquarters, which only reflects the parties’ relative size and not necessarily the location of potential witnesses—particularly as Apple has not shown that it did not have more granular facts at its disposal to support its original motion.
Id. at n3.
The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Apple’s motion to supplement the record.[…] The petition for a writ of mandamus is denied.
Id. at *5.

NEWMAN, Circuit Judge, dissenting. In re Apple, Newman Op., at *1.
Case Should be TransferedRefusal to transfer this case should be reversed, and the writ of mandamus should issue to account for the extreme imbalance of convenience as between California and Texas.
In re Apple, Newman Op., at *2.
Specific Identification of Witnesses/Sources not Required, since all possible Sources/Witnesses are in CaliforniaThe district court has greatly mischaracterized Apple’s proffered evidence. Apple may not have identified specific witnesses or singled out individual documents; however, the evidence proffered makes it clear that all relevant Apple witnesses and documents are located in the Northern District of California. The evidence also shows that the suppliers of the accused components are located in California—Qualcomm Incorporated is based in San Diego and Intel Corporation is based in Santa Clara. Under a proper transfer analysis, these facts lead to only one conclusion—this case should be transferred to the Northern District of California.
Id. at *2.
Plaintiff Has a handful of US employees, Apple in the thousandsI am struck by how heavily the local interest factor favors the Northern District of California. Apple is a robust company that supports the local economy of Cupertino, California, employing over 13,000 people. Core Wireless, on the other hand, is a non-United States corporation with one employee that exists solely to license its patent portfolio. To carry out this task, Core Wireless employs 6 people through a subsidiary in Plano, Texas. Apple’s impact on the local economy in the Northern District of California is clearly much greater than that of Core Wireless in the Eastern District of Texas.
Id. at *3.
GenentechIn Genentech we observed that there were “a substantial number of witnesses with material and relevant information residing in either the transferee venue or the state of California who will be unnecessarily inconvenienced in having to travel to Texas to testify.” [...] We further noted that two of the three parties were headquartered in the Northern District of California or had facilities in San Diego, California, realizing that this would greatly reduce any transportation of documents related to the accused products. Id. We also explained that the Northern District of California would have the authority to compel many witnesses to appear at trial if necessary. Id. The similarities between the facts of this case and Genentech are striking.
Id. at *3 (internal citations omitted).

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