The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a scheduling order from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and ordered the court to defer fact finding and other substantive proceedings until it considered a transfer request. Regarding: Apple Inc., case no. 22-162 (Federal Circ. Nov. 8, 2022) (Reyna, J.) The Federal Circuit ordered that Apple’s motion to transfer be processed expeditiously, barring discovery of facts and other material matters, as the first agenda item will . The court has repeatedly berated Judge Albright for his refusal to move patent cases out of the Western District of Texas.
Aire Technology sued Apple for patent infringement in October 2021. In April 2022, Apple moved to refer the lawsuit to the US District Court for the Northern District of California pursuant to 28 USC § 1404(a). During the determination of jurisdiction, Apple produced statements from its employees, offered to make the statements available for deposit, and said it would not oppose a “reasonable continuation” of the transfer process. Judge Albright granted Apple’s request so spontaneous ordered the parties to complete the finding of fact (which the court extended by 30 weeks), followed by an additional six weeks of debriefing before he would rule on Apple’s transfer request. Apple has submitted an application mandamus with the federal court seeking an order to set aside the circuit court’s termination order and immediately rule on the transfer request, staying all proceedings on the merits until the transfer is resolved.
Apple argued that the district court abused its discretion by requiring the parties to complete an additional 30 weeks of fact-finding and six weeks of re-disclosure of the matter to rule on Apple’s transfer request. Apple noted that by the time the district court considered Apple’s motion, a full year would have elapsed since Apple originally requested the transfer, completed the finding of fact, served the infringement and nullity complaints of the parties alleging claims made and references to the state of the art would have been narrowed and the parties would have exchanged evidence and lists of witnesses from the preliminary proceedings.
The Federal Circuit agreed with Apple that the district court’s planning order went too far. The court found that “requiring the parties to expend additional party and court resources to dispute the substantive issues of the case while unnecessarily keeping Apple’s motion for escrow on file is a clear abuse of discretion.” The court found that Aire had agreed to release Apple’s transfer request at any time, provided that no stay interfered with the discovery, the process of constructing claims, or the preparation of the case for trial.
The Federal Circuit disagreed with the district court’s view that delaying the decision until after the facts were fully established and re-disclosure could reduce “speculation” and “allow the parties to provide the court with the best evidence in deciding a transfer request.” The court found that the disclosure of the transfer application itself was sufficient to enable a determination of that application, particularly as the parties agreed that further disclosure of jurisdiction was unnecessary. The Federal Circuit directed the district court to “proceed expeditiously [on the transfer motion] as the first agenda.”