In Re Nitro Fluids, L.L.C., No. 20-142 (Fed. Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In 2018, Cameron sued Nitro in the Southern District of Texas, where both parties are headquartered, alleging infringement of three of Cameron’s patents. That court has not issued a claim construction ruling and a trial date has not been set. In 2020, Cameron filed this suit against Nitro in the Western District of Texas, alleging that the same accused products infringe two other Cameron patents. The Western District denied a motion to decline jurisdiction or transfer the action, reasoning that when a balance of the 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) transfer factors “does not weigh in favor of transfer" compelling circumstances exist to avoid application of the first-to-file rule. The court concluded that two factors—access to sources of proof and the local interest— favored transfer while the administrative difficulties flowing from court congestion and the practical problems factor weighed against transfer.
The Federal Circuit vacated. The district court erred in concluding that the first-to-file rule only applies when the balance of factors favors the first-filed court. Unlike in an ordinary transfer analysis, the focus of the first-to-file rule is to avoid potential interference in the affairs of another court. Requiring that the balance of the transfer factors favor the second-filed court helps to ensure that more compelling concerns exist. The district court erred in not making that adjustment and did not expressly resolve whether balancing the factors favors the second-filed court.