An Australian corporation sued a number of Alibaba.com and a number of related entities. Alibaba's U.S. operations run through a Delaware corporation with the principal place of business in San Jose, California, and other entities include a Hong Kong corporation and a Cayman Islands corporation. The plaintiff brought suit in Texas, alleging that there are certain witnesses residing in the Houston area.
The court granted the motion to transfer the case to the Northern District of California. The court noted that the witnesses identified by the plaintiff are not likely to be trial witnesses. The court also noted that "it is generally a fiction that patent cases give rise to local controversy or interest, particularly without record evidence suggesting otherwise."
The procedural course of this case is interesting. There was another set of defendants whose cases were already transferred out to the Eastern District of Virginia, based on the theory that the complained-of activity of the defendants occurred on Amazon's server located in the E.D. Va. The defendants in this case represent the leftovers who did not utilize Amazon's server.
Personal jurisdiction and venue determination based on server activity is rather interesting. I am not sure if there is a consistent jurisprudence developed as to the relationship between a server and minimum contact. From my experience, server activity often might be just an excuse for courts to either accept or decline jurisdiction based on the court's sense of proper jurisdiction and venue. Further study would be helpful in this area.
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