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MDL Panel Rejects Patent Case
A coalition of tech giants, financial firms and national retailers defending themselves against a Texas patent holder won a venue fight on Wednesday.
Droplets Inc. lost its push to have six infringement cases pending in California, New York and Texas grouped together before a single judge for streamlined case management.
Droplets had petitioned the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to centralize the actions, which were initially filed in the Eastern District of Texas but later severed and transferred to the Northern District of California and other districts.
The panel denied the request, in part because the cases are in different stages of litigation. For instance, the panel observed that a summary judgment motion that could resolve one matter has been fully briefed in the Southern District of New York. Meanwhile, a claim construction hearing had been set for early December in Texas cases against eBay and Target, the panel noted.
Droplets, which holds two patents related to the electronic delivery of information from a remote source, filed three infringement actions last year against companies in the online, retail and financial sectors.
A case against Apple Inc., Amazon.com, Facebook Inc., Google Inc., and Yahoo Inc. was assigned to U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose. Separate cases against Nordstrom Inc. and Williams Sonoma Inc. are pending before U.S. District Judges Ronald Whyte in San Jose and Richard Seeborg in San Francisco.
Each of the 19 defendants sued by Droplets opposed centralization, the panel noted in its order.
Jennifer Haltom Doan of Haltom & Doan in Texarkana argued against MDL treatment on behalf of the technology companies.
Although the cases involved the same patents, Droplets asserted different claims against different products in different industries, Doan said.
"Those factors just cried out for not centralizing these cases. It just would not be efficient," she said.
The MDL panel has seen more patent cases since the 2011 America Invents Act tightened rules for suing multiple defendants in one action. So far this year the panel has considered 12 requests for centralization in patent cases and granted seven.