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Patent Holder, LLC. v. Lone Wolf Distributors, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

October 31, 2017

Patent Holder LLC, Plaintiff,
Lone Wolf Distributors, Inc. and Lone Wolf R&D LLC, Defendants.


          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge

         The Plaintiff brings this lawsuit against Lone Wolf Distributors, Inc. and Lone Wolf R&D LLC (collectively, “Lone Wolf” or “Defendants”) for patent infringement. This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Venue, or in the Alternative to Transfer Venue (ECF No. 13). For the reasons set forth in this Order, the Court grants in part the motion and orders the case transferred to the District of Idaho.

         1. Background

         The Plaintiff, Patent Holder, LLC (“Patent Holder” or “Plaintiff”), is a Florida company with an address in Miami. (Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1.) The Plaintiff owns United States Patent No. 9, 404, 700 (the “‘700 Patent”). (Id. ¶ 10.) The Defendants are legally organized under the laws of Idaho with principal places of business in Priest River, Idaho. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.)

         A. The ‘700 Patent and Alleged Infringement

         The ‘700 Patent is a patent for an Enhanced Trigger Control Connector. (Id. ¶ 11.) The Enhanced Trigger Control Connector improves a firearm's trigger by limiting “excess travel” of the trigger and by minimizing “trigger bar obstruction.” (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Images of the Enhanced Trigger Control Connector and its relationship to a firearm's trigger are included here:

(Image Omitted)

(Id. at Ex. 2, p. 5, ECF No. 1-2.)

         The ‘700 Patent was assigned to the Plaintiff by the named inventor, Arthur Viani. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) Ghost, Inc., a business in Miami, Florida, manufactures, distributes, and sells the Enhanced Trigger Control Connector protected by the ‘700 Patent. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         The Defendants also manufacture, distribute, and sell gun parts and accessories. (Id. ¶ 16.) The Defendants manufacture and sell an enhanced trigger control connector that allegedly infringes the ‘700 Patent. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18, 21-22.) Exhibit Two of the Complaint provides the following comparison of the prior art, the Enhanced Trigger Control Connector, and the product sold by the Defendants under the name “LWD-342-4243, LWD G42/43 3.5 Connector”:

(Image Omitted)

         The Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants are aware of the ‘700 Patent and their product's alleged infringement and continue to manufacture and sell the “LWD-342-4243, LWD G42/43 3.5 Connector” without the Plaintiff's authorization. (Id. ¶¶ 20-25.) According to the Complaint, the Plaintiff has offered for sale and sold the “LWD-342-4243, LWD G42/43 3.5 Connector” in this District despite its knowledge of the alleged infringing nature of those actions. (Id. ¶ 24.) Accordingly, the Plaintiff brings one count of patent infringement against the Defendants, seeking damages, attorneys' fees, costs, and further relief under 35 U.S.C. § 271. (Id. ¶¶ 27-32, A-I.)

         B. Lone Wolf's Business and Contacts with the Forum

          Lone Wolf Distributors, Inc. and Lone Wolf R&D LLC are incorporated in Idaho and headquartered in Priest River, Idaho. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4; Decl. of Daniel Shepard, Jr. ¶ 4, ECF No. 13-1.) Lone Wolf manufactures and distributes its products solely from that location. (See id. ¶¶ 4-9.) Lone Wolf sells directly to its customers from its website and does not employ sales agents or employees outside of Idaho. (Id. ¶ 8.) Lone Wolf is not licensed to do business in Florida and is not registered as a foreign corporation with the state. (Id. ¶ 7.) Neither Lone Wolf nor any of its employees maintains a physical location in Florida. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.)

         According to Patent Holder, Lone Wolf has several contacts with the Southern District of Florida. Lone Wolf allegedly derives revenue from products sold in this District. (Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 1.) In support of this allegation, Patent Holder attaches an invoice of purchases that Ghost, Inc. made from Lone Wolf for delivery into this District as well as photographs of the received goods ordered by Ghost, Inc. from Lone Wolf. (Id. at Ex. 1, pp. 5-9, ECF No. 1-1.) Patent Holder also claims that dealers in this District sell infringing products manufactured by Lone Wolf. (Resp. at 3.) Patent Holder provides no evidence to support this claim. Patent Holder alleges that Lone Wolf directly infringes on its patents in this District. (Compl. ¶ 23, ECF No. 1.)

         C. Procedural History

         In lieu of filing a responsive pleading, Lone Wolf moved to dismiss this action for improper venue or, in the alternative, for a transfer of venue to the District of Idaho under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (ECF No. 13). In support, Lone Wolf attached a declaration from Daniel Shepard, Jr., the president and owner of Lone Wolf Distributors, Inc. and the Managing Member and owner of Lone Wolf R&D, LLC. (ECF No. 13-1.) Shepard declares under penalty of perjury that Lone Wolf maintains no physical location in Florida and that it would be inconvenient for the two small Idaho entities to litigate the dispute in this District. (Id.) Patent Holder responded, addressing the inconvenience of this venue issue, but not the Defendants' arguments that venue is improper. (See ECF No. 14) (addressing which venue is “more convenient” under 28 U.S.C. § 1404 but failing to reference 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b).) In support of its motion, Patent Holder attached a printout of Lone Wolf's website but did not submit any declaration or affidavit to contradict the positions taken by Mr. Shepard. (See, generally, Resp. at 1-12, ECF Nos. 14, 14-1.) Patent Holder explicitly requested “specific factual and legal findings as to venue[, ] . . . an opportunity to remedy those issues[, ] . . . and discovery on those issues.” (Id. at 11.) The Defendants filed a short reply, noting, inter alia, the Plaintiff's failure to address the improper venue issue. (Reply at 1-3, ECF No. 17.) The issues are now fully developed and ripe for resolution by the Court.

         2. ...

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