Rude d/b/a ABT Sys., LLC v. Lux Prods. Corp., No. 09 C 6957, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 12, 2011) (Norgle, J.).
Judge Norgle granted defendant Emerson Climate Technologies’ ("ECT") motion to sever plaintiffs’ claims against ECT for improper joinder, and granted ECT’s motion to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Missouri in this patent dispute regarding an air distribution fan recycling control. ECT sought dismissal because each defendant’s accused system, generally a thermostat, was a different product and, therefore, there was no common transaction or occurrence as required for Fed. R. Civ. P. 20 joinder. The Court agreed, holding that sales of similar products by unrelated defendants did not meet Rule 20(a)’s common transaction or occurrence requirement, noting agreement from several other judges in the Northern District. Furthermore, allegations that unrelated defendants design and sell similar products does not satisfy Rule 20(a). Similarly, the fact that the defendants’ defenses and counterclaims were "nearly identical" was irrelevant to the joinder analysis. Having held that ECT was misjoined, the Court declined to consolidate the two cases for pretrial proceedings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 42(a). And the Court severed ECT’s case pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 21.
The Court then transferred the severed case to the Eastern District of Missouri, where ECT was located. Plaintiffs’ choice of forum was given less than normal deference because plaintiffs were not Illinois residents. The situs of material events was irrelevant, as in many patent cases.
The ease of access to the proofs weighed strongly in favor of transfer. ECT’s relevant entities were headquartered in St. Louis, within the Eastern District of Missouri. ECT identified at least five key party witnesses within the Eastern District of Missouri. And that district could more easily compel non-party witnesses also likely to be resident in St. Louis. Additionally, while ECT would gain significant convenience from transfer, plaintiffs would be inconvenienced either way, as they were not residents of either contemplated district. So, relative convenience of the parties weighed in favor of transfer. And the speed of the districts to trial slightly favored transfer.