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SAINT-GOBAIN CALMAR, INC. v. NATIONAL PRODUCTS CORP.

November 6, 2002

SAINT-GOBAIN CALMAR, INC., PLAINTIFF
V.
NATIONAL PRODUCTS CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Curtis Joyner, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss and/or in the alternative, the Motion to Transfer of Defendant National Products Corporation ("NPC" or "Defendant"). NPC seeks to dismiss the Complaint for lack of venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) or in the alternative, transfer venue to the District of South Carolina pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the reasons that follow, the action is transferred to the District of South Carolina.

BACKGROUND

Saint-Gobain Calmar ("Calmar" or "Plaintiff") is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in City of Industry, California. Calmar develops, manufactures, and sells fluid dispensing products, such as trigger sprayers. Defendant is a South Carolina corporation with its sole place of business in Spartanburg, South Carolina. NPC manufactures and sells degeasers and other household cleaning products, which are sold in bottles with trigger sprayer dispensers.

Three separate registered patents related to fluid dispensers are at issue in this patent infringement action. Plaintiff is the exclusive licensee with the right to bring suit for Patent No. Re 33,235 for a liquid dispensing pump. Plaintiff is also the assignee and current owner of Patent No. 4,747,523 for a manually activated dispensing pump and Patent No. 4,706,888 for a multipurpose nozzle assembly. Plaintiff contends that NPC has been violating 35 U.S.C. § 271 by selling liquid cleaning products with infringing trigger sprayer dispensers.

Calmar brought this patent infringement action in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Defendant now moves to dismiss the case for improper venue, or in the alternative, to transfer the action to a more convenient venue.

DISCUSSION

A. Defendant's Motion to Dismss

Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed because venue is improper in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3); see 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). In a patent infringement action, venue is proper if it is "brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business." 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). In actions that involve a corporate defendant, § 1391(c) defines residency for the purposes of venue: "For purposes of venue under this chapter, a defendant that is a corporation shall be deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c). In VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F.2d 1574, 1580 (Fed. Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 922 (1991), the Federal Circuit held that Congress amended § 1391(c) to apply its definition of residency for corporate defendants to § 1400(b).*fn1 In which case, a corporate defendant "resides" wherever it is subject to personal jurisdiction. Defendant NPC, however, contends that § 1400(b) exclusively controls venue in patent infringement actions. While some circuits have continued to follow the Supreme Court's holding in Fourco Glass Co., the courts in this District have followed the reasoning laid out in VE Holding. See VP Intellectual Props., LLC v. Imtec Corp., No. 99-3136, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19700 at *1718 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 8, 1999); Amalia, Inc. v. Conopco, Inc., No. 94-4182, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 5, 1995). Thus, venue is proper for a corporate defendant in a patent infringement action if it is subject to personal jurisdiction in that district.

It is uncontested that Defendant was subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania in this case. In addition, this Court finds that Defendant has sufficient contact with Pennsylvania to warrant specific personal jurisdiction because NPC sold its allegedly infringing products to distributors here. See VP Intellectual Props., 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19700, at *13.

Defendant further contends that applying the holding in VE Holding and supplementing § 1400(b)'s definition of "resides" with § 1391(c) would be a violation of its Equal Protection rights. Doing so, NPC argues, would result in a more liberal venue provision for corporations in patent infringement cases, denying corporate defendants the equal protection of law. Although creative, Defendant's argument is unpersuasive. Defendant does not overcome the burden of showing that Congress decision to amend § 1391(c) bears no rational basis to a legitimate governmental purpose. See Central State Univ. v. American Ass'n of Univ. Professors, Cent. State Univ. Chapter, 526 U.S. 124, 127-28 (1999) (holding that "a classification neither involving fundamental rights nor proceedings along suspect lines . . . cannot run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause if there is a rational relationship between disparity of treatment and some legitimate governmental purpose")

Therefore, since personal jurisdiction is established for Defendant and applying VE Holding to Defendant does not violate the Equal Protection Clause, this Court finds that venue in this District is proper and the Motion to Dismiss for improper venue is denied.

B. Defendant's Motion to Transfer

Even though this action can be brought in this District, Defendant, in the alternative, brings a motion to transfer venue to a more convenient venue. A court may transfer the venue of any civil action for the convenience of parties and witnesses or in the interests of justice, to any other district where it might have been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The party seeking transfer bears the burden of proving that transfer is proper and the Court has broad discretion in deciding whether to transfer an action. Plum Tree, Inc. v. Stockment, 488 F.2d 754, 756 (3d Cir. 1973). In deciding a motion to transfer, the court must first determine whether the alternative forum is a ...


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