Overcoming Heavy Burden Required to Succeed on Venue-Related Writ of Mandamus

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Addressing a venue challenge, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit denied a petition for a writ of mandamus because the challenger did not demonstrate it had no adequate alternative means to obtain desired relief since meaningful review could occur after final judgment was entered. In re. Google, Case No. 20-144 (Fed. Cir. Sept. 18, 2020) (Reyna, J.).

Personalized Media Communications (PMC) sued Google in the Eastern District of Texas for infringement of six patents related to adaptive video streaming. PMC initially asserted venue was proper based on the presence of several Google Global Cache (GGC) servers at facilities owned by internet service providers (ISPs) located within the district. Google moved to dismiss for improper venue. While Google’s motion was pending, the Federal Circuit issued its decision in In re. Google, rejecting a venue argument asserted by a different plaintiff against Google that was also premised on the presence of GGC servers, and finding that a regular and established place of business requires the regular physical presence of an employee or other agent of the defendant conducting the defendant’s business at the alleged place of business.

After the Federal Circuit’s decision, PMC asserted a different venue theory based on Google’s agreements with Communications Test Design (CTDI) to warehouse, refurbish, repair and ship hardware products, such as Google’s cellphones and speakers, from a CTDI facility located in the Eastern District of Texas. The district court agreed with PMC and denied Google’s motion, finding that CTDI was acting as Google’s agent and was conducting Google’s business from its facility. Google filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking to vacate the district court’s order.

The Federal Circuit denied Google’s petition. The Court explained that a party seeking a writ bears the heavy burden of demonstrating that it has no adequate alternative means to obtain the desired relief and that the right to issuance of the writ is clear and indisputable. Without providing an explanation, the Court found that although Google raised viable arguments based on the law of agency and the Court’s precedent, it was not satisfied that Google’s right to a writ was clear and indisputable. The Court concluded that Google can obtain meaningful review of the district court’s venue ruling after final judgment in the case.

Practice Note: The Federal Circuit was also concerned that the district court did not move more quickly to resolve Google’s venue challenge. Significant work in the case had already been done, and the trial date is currently set for November 2020. If the venue is later found to be improper, the case will be transferred and a new trial will occur.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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