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Cobalt Boats, LLC v. Sea Ray Boats, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 16, 2015

COBALT BOATS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
SEA RAY BOATS, INC. & BRUNSWICK CORP., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

HENRY COKE MORGAN, Jr., Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendants Sea Ray Boats, Inc. ("Sea Ray") and Brunswick Corporation's ("Brunswick"), (collectively, "Defendants"), Motion to Transfer Venue Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(A) ("Motion"). Doc. 17. For the reasons stated herein, the Court DENIES Defendants' Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

This patent infringement action arises out of the alleged infringement of U.S. Patent No. 8, 375, 880 ("'880 Patent"), owned by Plaintiff Cobalt Boats, LLC ("Plaintiff' of "Cobalt"), by Defendants. Am. Compl. at 1, 4. Sea Ray is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brunswick. Answer at 4-5. The '880 Patent was issued to Cobalt on February 19, 2013 for a "Retractable Step for Boat Swim Platform" ("Swim Step"), which is described as follows:

A retractable step for use with a boat in water comprising at least one moveable arm pivotally coupled with the boat, a step coupled with the arm such that the step is moveable between a stored position above the water surface and a deployed position below the water surface, and a lock configured to hold the moveable arm in a stationary position when the step is in its deployed position, but is releasable to accommodate movement of the step to its stored position. Am. Compl., Ex. A at 1. Beginning in 2014, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, two of its industry competitors, "began promoting and selling boats that include a Swim Step feature described as a submersible swim step', " which infringes upon the '880 Patent. Id. at 5.

Plaintiff contends that the Sea Ray boats with the infringing Swim Step include, but are not limited to, the Sea Ray 220 Sundeck, Sea Ray 240 Sundeck, Sea Ray 270 Sundeck, and Sea Ray 290 Sundeck. Id. at 6. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that Defendants' version of the Swim Step infringes on at least claims 1, 3, 5, and 6 of the '880 Patent. Id. at 7. On October 1, 2014, Cobalt notified Sea Ray of the alleged infringement, and to date, Sea Ray continues to manufacture, use, and sell its version of the Swim Step. Id. at 6. Defendants deny having had knowledge of the '880 Patent prior to October 1, 2014, and further deny that their products infringe upon the '880 Patient. Answer at 9-10.

A. Procedural History

Plaintiff is a Delaware limited liability company headquartered in Neodesha, Kansas. Doc. 28 at 3. Defendant Brunswick is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Lake Forest, Illinois, and Defendant Sea Ray is a Florida corporation headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee. Answer at 2. Further, Defendant Brunswick's Recreational Boat Group ("Boat Group"), which "is responsible for the design, manufacturing, management, and marketing" of the alleged infringing products, is also headquartered in Knoxville, Tennessee. Doc. 18 at 1. The Parties concede that venue is proper within the Eastern District of Virginia, Answer at 4, but in the present Motion Defendants contend that the facts support a transfer to the Eastern District of Tennessee under Title 28, United States Code Section 1404(a) ("Section 1404(a)"). Id.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Under Section 1404(a), courts may, "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, ... transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In determining whether transfer is proper, "a district court must make two inquiries: (1) whether the claims might have been brought in the transferee forum, and (2) whether the interest of justice and convenience of the parties and witnesses justify transfer to that forum." Pragmatus AV, LLC v. Facebook, Inc., 769 F.Supp.2d 991, 994 (E.D. Va. 2011) (quoting Agilent Tech., Inc. v. Micromuse, Inc., 316 F.Supp.2d 322, 324-25 (E.D. Va. 2004)). "The second prong of the 1404(a) analysis is a balancing test that weighs (1) the plaintiff's choice of forum, (2) convenience of the parties, (3) witnesses conveniences and access, and (4) the interest of justice." Patent Licensing & Inv. Co., LLC v. Green Jets, Inc., No. 2:10cv421, 2011 WL 11797320, at *3 (E.D. Va. June 13, 2011) (quoting Pargmatus. 2011 WL 320952, at *2) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Whether a case merits transfer is a decision that rests with the discretion of the Court, which must balance any relevant factors, including:

(1) ease of access to sources of proof; (2) the convenience of the parties and witnesses; (3) the cost of obtaining the attendance of witnesses; (4) the availability of compulsory process; (5) the interest in having local controversies decided at home; (6) in diversity cases, the court's familiarity with the applicable law; and (7) the interest of justice.

BHP Intern. Inv., Inc. v. OnLine Exchange, Inc., 105 F.Supp.2d 493, 498 (E.D. Va. 2000). "The party seeking transfer bears the burden of proving that the circumstances of the case are strongly in favor of transfer, " and "transfer is not appropriate where it will only serve to shift the balance of inconvenience from one party to the other." Heinz Kettler GMBH & Co. v. Razor USA, LLC, 750 F.Supp.2d 660, 667, 668 (E.D. Va. 2010) ...


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