Sunday, July 4, 2021

Federal Circuit may overrule Judge Albright should he hold Markman hearing prior to ruling on Volkswagen's motion to transfer venue

We're in the Western District of Texas again. Sometimes, such as on Thursday, I agree with Judge Alan Albright. As a former patent litigator, he knows this stuff inside out. But there are issues. I already indicated in a Thursday post that Judge Albright's reluctance to relinquish his jurisdiction over patent cases is controversial. And in my previous post I pointed to a recent Federal Circuit decision overruling a denial of a transfer motion by Samsung and LG.

This "what's filed in Waco stays in Waco" attitude has practical implications: he gets about 20% of all U.S. patent infringement cases, tries to keep as many of them as he can, and then he struggles to take cases to trial as quickly as he'd like to (and as plaintiffs hope). One of the ways in which he tries to optimize his workstream is that he takes a relatively long time to rule on--guess what--venue transfer motions.

On Tuesday, the Federal Circuit handed down its decision In re.: Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.. Volkswagen is the petitioner, and the original plaintiff is StratosAudio, a company that according to its website "won the CES Best of Innovations in the Mobile Electronics category in 2004 with Motorola and Hyundai Autonet." What Volkswagen sought--and didn't get at this stage--is for the case to be transferred out of the Western District of Texas or for the proceedings to be stayed until Judge Albright would get around at long last to a ruling on the venue transfer motion.

The Federal Circuit did not find that Volkswagen had a clear legal right to a stay. But that conclusion is based on the assumption that Judge Albright will adjudicate the venue transfer motion ahead of the Markman (claim construction) hearing scheduled for early October. The Federal Circuit "note[s], however, that the district court's failure to issue a ruling on Volkswagen’s venue motion before a Markman hearing may alter [the appeals court's] assessment of the mandamus factors."

That last sentence means the glass is half-full for the car maker. And it has serious ramifications for Judge Albright's case management beyond StratosAudio v. Volkswagen.

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