Texas Federal Court Denies Apple’s Transfer Bid in “Slide to Unlock” Patent Case

On Monday, Judge Alan D. Albright denied Apple Inc.’s motion to transfer venue in a case involving patented “slide to unlock” smart device interface technology. In June 2020, plaintiff Neonode Smartphones LLC, a Wyoming company, sued Apple asserting several infringement claims and, on the same day, filed similar claims against Samsung.

Apple responded by filing a motion to transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), requesting that the lawsuit be moved from the Western District of Texas to the Northern District of California . The court denied the motion in this week’s 14-page ruling after the parties fully briefed the issues.

Judge Albright explained that the thrust of a transfer inquiry is whether the case could initially have been brought in the transferee venue, here the Northern District of California. It weighed the relevant considerations, including the relative ease of access to proof, the availability of compulsory process to ensure witness attendance, and the cost of attendance for willing witnesses.

The court was primarily swayed by the fourth factor contemplating “all other practical problems that make trial of a case easy, expeditious and inexpensive.” This factor weighed strongly against transfer, the court reasoned, because of the co-pending Samsung case involving the same two asserted patents and highly similar accused technologies.

Judge Albright explained that judicial resources could be saved if the trio of cases are decided together, citing claim construction as one of the most important, time-consuming, and expenses issues to litigate. Samsung, the court further noted, has not moved to transfer the litigation.

In addition, the court said that it “customarily requires parties in related cases to coordinate all aspects of the cases until pre-trial, which would further save judicial resources and facilitate expeditious resolution of both cases.” Finally, addressing one of the public interest factors, the court noted that the backlog of cases in the California court compared to that in the Texas court also weighs strongly against transfer.

Neonode is represented by Steckler Wayne Cochrane Cherry PLLC and Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, and Apple by Fish & Richardson P.C.