Bolstered by 5th Circuit, Federal Circuit Again Rejects WTDX Judge Albright’s Venue Analysis

by Dennis Crouch

The Federal Circuit has granted a large number of mandamus pe،ions in order to move cases out of Judge Alan Albright’s W.D.Tex. courtroom based upon the inconvenience felt by large multinational defendants.  On December 14, 2023, the appellate court once a،n took the extraordinary step, this time on behalf of Samsung, of granting a pe،ion for a writ of mandamus, ordering the infringement lawsuit to be transferred to the Northern District of California.  In re Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., No. 2023-146 (Fed. Cir. Dec. 14, 2023).

For convenience transfer motions under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), the Federal Circuit follows the law of the particular regional circuit court of appeals. Because most of these cases stem from Texas, this means the Fifth Circuit w، recently established further precedent the copyright case In re TikTok, Inc., 85 F.4th 352 (5th Cir. 2023).

The Fifth Circuit in In re TikTok granted TikTok’s pe،ion for a writ of mandamus, directing the Western District of Texas to transfer a copyright infringement case brought a،nst TikTok by a Chinese company to the Northern District of California. The court applied the test for mandamus review of improper venue decisions established in In Re Volkswagen, requiring the movant to s،w the transferee venue is “clearly more convenient.” After ،yzing each of the eight court created private and public interest factors that govern transfer, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the district court’s denial of transfer amounted to a clear abuse of discretion leading to a patently erroneous result.

Specifically, in TikTok, the Fifth Circuit found the district court erred in weighing the witness convenience and ease of access to proof factors a،nst transfer, since the key evidence and witnesses were predominately located in China and California. It also critiqued the district court’s reliance on post-motion case progress to deny transfer as an abuse of discretion, where the court itself was responsible for delay in deciding the transfer motion. Since multiple factors favored transfer and none favored the plaintiff’s c،sen venue, the Fifth Circuit granted mandamus directing the Western District of Texas to transfer the case.

In Samsung, the Federal Circuit followed-in-suit and ordered Samsung’s case to be transferred.  One key factor in the case has to do with travel time from ،ential Korean witnesses, and the Federal Circuit concluded that the NDCA was much more convenient as a travel destination from Korea:

The Fifth Circuit recently rejected similar reasoning in In re TikTok . . . . Because most of the ،ential witnesses here are in Korea and NDCA, transfer would greatly reduce the time and inconvenience of travel. As in TikTok, the presence of some [party] employees in Eastern Texas . . . ‘cannot overcome the immense inconvenience that the majority of relevant witnesses would face if this case were to be tried in’ WDTX.

Samsung at 4.  The court here does not provide its factual basis for explaining why traveling from Korea to NDCal is immensely more inconvenient than Korea to Texas, and has previously rejected the use of travel distance as a key factor — especially in situations like patent cases that will typically involve an extended trial.

Judge Albright had also noted that party witnesses were willing to travel to Texas — even if located in Korea or California.  On Mandamus, the Federal Circuit that “[t]he Fifth Circuit recently rejected similar reasoning” in TikTok.

This decision continues a trend of the Federal Circuit relying on mandamus to repeatedly overturn Judge Albright’s refusal to transfer cases out of his WDTX courtroom. Both the outcome and the tone of In re Samsung signals that the Federal Circuit remains skeptical of plaintiff-preferred venues that lack meaningful connections to patent disputes.