Apple Inc. v. Zipit Wireless, Inc., No. 5:2020cv04448 - Document 34 (N.D. Cal. 2021)

Court Description: Order Granting 21 Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. Signed by Judge Edward J. Davila on 02/12/2021. (ejdlc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/12/2021)
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Apple Inc. v. Zipit Wireless, Inc. Doc. 34 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 SAN JOSE DIVISION 7 APPLE INC., 8 Case No. 5:20-cv-04448-EJD Plaintiff, 9 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS v. 10 ZIPIT WIRELESS, INC., 11 Re: Dkt. No. 21 United States District Court Northern District of California Defendant. 12 13 Before the Court is Defendant Zipit Wireless, Inc.’s (“Zipit”) motion to dismiss Apple 14 Inc.’s (“Apple”) complaint for declaratory judgment of non-infringement for lack of personal 15 jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2). See Def.’s Mot. to Dismiss, Dkt. 16 No. 21 (“Motion”). The Court took the matter under submission for decision without oral 17 argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS Zipit’s 18 motion to dismiss. 19 I. Background Apple is a California corporation with its principal place of business in Cupertino, 20 21 California.1 Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶ 8, Dkt. No. 1. Zipit is a Delaware corporation with its 22 principal place of business in Greenville, South Carolina, and has “no physical presence, 23 employees, or records of any kind in California.” Id. ¶ 9; Declaration of Frank Greer (“Greer 24 Decl.”), Dkt. No. 21-1, Ex. 1 ¶ 10. Apple brings this action seeking a declaratory judgment of non- 25 infringement of two patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 7,292,870 (“the ’870 patent”) and 7,894,837 (“the 26 27 28 This statement and all those contained within the “Background” section summarize allegations made by one or more of the parties. Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 1 1 Dockets.Justia.com 1 ’837 patent”) (collectively, the “Zipit Patents”). Compl. ¶ 1. The action arises from a longstanding 2 dispute between Apple and Zipit involving allegations that Apple has infringed the Zipit Patents. 3 Id. ¶ 4. From approximately 2013 to 2016, the parties engaged in extensive out-of-court 4 negotiations to settle the status of the Zipit Patents. Id.; Pl.’s Resp. to Motion, Dkt. No. 24, p. 3. 5 The negotiations included an “exchange of many rounds of correspondence,” Zipit sending 6 infringement notice letters and claim charts to Apple, and two in-person meetings between Zipit 7 and Apple representatives at Apple’s California offices. Id. Ultimately, the negotiations failed to 8 reach a resolution as to whether or not Apple was indeed infringing on the Zipit Patents. Compl. ¶ 9 5. In June of 2020, Zipit filed suit against Apple in the Northern District of Georgia, United States District Court Northern District of California 10 11 accusing Apple of infringing upon the Zipit Patents. Compl. ¶ 2; see also Zipit Wireless, Inc., v. 12 Apple Inc., Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-02488-ELR (N.D. Ga.). However, Zipit voluntarily 13 dismissed its litigation against Apple without prejudice two weeks after filing the action. Compl. ¶ 14 3. Apple now asserts that Zipit’s past conduct has produced a justiciable immediate controversy 15 with Zipit and has initiated the present suit seeking a judicial declaration that it has not infringed 16 upon the Zipit Patents. Id. ¶¶ 6–7. Zipit filed the present motion, seeking to dismiss Apple’s complaint arguing that this Court 17 18 lacks personal jurisdiction over Zipit. Motion, p.1. Apple filed an opposition to the motion, to 19 which Zipit then replied. Pl.’s Resp. to Motion, Dkt. No. 24; Def.’s Reply, Dkt. No. 29. 20 II. 21 Legal Standard Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) allows a party to file a motion to dismiss when 22 there is a lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). Federal Circuit law governs a 23 district court’s inquiry into whether it may properly exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of- 24 state defendant in a patent case. See Nuance Commc’ns., Inc. v. Abbyy Software House, 626 F.3d 25 1222, 1230 (Fed. Cir. 2010); see also Hildebrand v. Steck Manufacturing Co., Inc., 279 F.3d 1351, 26 1354 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (Federal Circuit law governs personal jurisdiction inquiries in declaratory 27 judgment actions where the defendant is patentee). Where the parties have not conducted 28 Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 2 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 discovery, a plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing that the defendants are subject to 2 personal jurisdiction. See Silent Drive, Inc., v. Strong Indus., Inc., 326 F.3d 1194, 1201 (Fed. Cir. 3 2003). The district court must construe all pleadings and affidavits in the light most favorable to 4 the plaintiff and resolve any factual conflicts in the affidavits in the plaintiff’s favor. See Elecs. 5 For Imaging, Inc. v. Coyle, 340 F.3d 1344, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2003). 6 When making a determination as to whether a district court may exert jurisdiction over an 7 out-of-state defendant, a court may make “two inquiries: whether a forum state’s long-arm statute 8 permits service of process and whether assertion of personal jurisdiction violates due process.” 9 Xilinx, Inc. v. Papst Licensing GmbH & Co. KG, 848 F.3d 1346, 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (quoting 10 Autogenomics, Inc. v. Oxford Gene Tech. Ltd., 566 F.3d 1012, 1017 (Fed. Cir. 2009)). 11 “California’s long-arm statute permits service of process to the full extent allowed by the due 12 process clauses of the United States Constitution.” Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1353 (citing Elecs. For 13 Imaging, F.3d at 1349; Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 410.10). As such, “the two inquiries collapse into a 14 single inquiry: whether jurisdiction comports with due process.” Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1353 (quoting 15 Inamed Corp. v. Kuzmak, 249 F.3d 1356, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2001)). The exercise of jurisdiction over non-resident defendants violates due process unless those 16 17 defendants have “minimum contacts” with the forum state such that the exercise of jurisdiction 18 “does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Int’l Shoe Co. v. 19 Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945). “[I]t is essential in each case 20 that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of 21 conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its 22 laws.” Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1228, 2 L.Ed.2d 1283 (1958). 23 III. Zipit moves for dismissal of Apple’s complaint arguing that it would be unreasonable for 24 25 Discussion this Court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Zipit in this district.2 Motion, p. 4–5. 26 27 28 2 Apple does not contend that Zipit is subject to general jurisdiction in this forum. Accordingly, the Court only considers whether the Court has specific jurisdiction over Zipit. Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 3 1 Apple asserts that the Motion should not be granted, because Zipit’s correspondence with Apple 2 and its in-person meetings at Apple’s offices in Cupertino are sufficient for this Court to establish 3 specific personal jurisdiction over Zipit. Pl.’s Resp. to Motion, Dkt. No. 24, p. 2. When analyzing 4 specific personal jurisdiction, the courts follow a “three-factor test: (1) whether the defendant 5 purposefully directed its activities at residents of the forum; (2) whether the claim arises out of or 6 relates to the defendant’s activities with the forum; and (3) whether assertion of personal 7 jurisdiction is reasonable and fair.” Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1353 (quoting Inamed, 249 F.3d at 1360). 8 “The first two factors correspond with the ‘minimum contacts’ prong of the . . . analysis and the 9 third factor corresponds with the ‘fair play and substantial justice’ prong of the analysis”. Id. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 A. Whether Zipit Purposefully Directed Its Activities at Residents of the Forum, and Whether the Claim Arises Out of or Relates to Those Activities 12 The first two factors require the Court to determine whether the defendant purposefully 13 directed its activities at residents of the forum, and whether the claim arises out of or relates to 14 those activities. See Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1353. With respect to the first factor, “it is essential in each 15 case that there be some act by which the defendant purposefully avails itself of the privilege of 16 conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its 17 laws.” Id. (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958)). As to the second factor, “the 18 court must determine whether ‘the suit aris[es] out of or relate[s] to the defendant’s contacts with 19 the forum.’” Id. (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 923– 20 24 (2011)). The plaintiff has the burden of establishing these two factors. See Elecs. for Imaging, 21 340 F.3d at 1350. 22 Furthermore, when the plaintiff is bringing a declaratory judgment for non-infringement, 23 the claim “arises out of or relates to the activities of the defendant patentee in enforcing the patent 24 or patents in suit.” Avocent Huntsville Corp. v. Aten Int’l Co., 552 F.3d 1324, 1332 (Fed. Cir. 25 2008). “The relevant inquiry for specific personal jurisdiction then becomes to what extent has the 26 defendant patentee ‘purposefully directed [such enforcement activities] at residents of the forum,’ 27 and the extent to which the declaratory judgment claim ‘arises out of or relates to those 28 Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 4 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 activities.’” Id. (quoting Breckenridge Pharm., Inc. v. Metabolite Labs, 444 F.3d 1356, 1363 (Fed. 2 Cir. 2006)). “A declaratory judgment claim arises out of the patentee’s contacts with the forum 3 state only if those contacts ‘relate in some material way to the enforcement or the defense of the 4 patent.’” Maxchief Invs. Ltd. v. Wok & Pan, Ind., Inc., 909 F.3d 1134, 1138 (Fed. Cir. 2018) 5 (quoting Avocent, 552 F.3d at 1336). 6 The Federal Circuit “has acknowledged that the defendant purposefully directs his 7 activities at residents of the forum when the defendant sends a cease-and-desist letter to a potential 8 plaintiff in that particular forum. And a subsequent declaratory judgment action by that potential 9 plaintiff ‘arises out of or relates to’ the defendant’s activity — namely, the cease-and-desist letter.” 10 New World Int’l., Inc. v. Ford Glob. Techs., LLC, 859 F.3d 1032, 1037 (Fed. Cir. 2017) (quoting 11 Inamed, 249 F.3d at 1360). In Xilinx, the court found that the defendant “purposefully directed its 12 activities to California when it sent multiple notice letters to [the plaintiff] and traveled there to 13 discuss [the plaintiff’s] alleged patent infringement and potential licensing arrangements.” Xilinx, 14 848 F.3d at 1354. Here, Zipit has engaged in very similar conduct as the defendant in Xilinx 15 including sending multiple letters and claim charts accusing Apple of patent infringement and also 16 traveling to Apple’s offices in California to discuss these accusations. See id. By doing so, Zipit 17 has directed its activities to California and met the minimum contacts prong. Moreover, because 18 Apple’s declaratory judgment claim directly stems from these enforcement efforts, Apple’s claim 19 also arises out of Zipit’s contacts with California. Since Zipit has the “required minimum contacts 20 with California to make the exercise of personal jurisdiction presumptively reasonable,” Zipit 21 must now make a “compelling case” that jurisdiction is unreasonable. Id. at 1356. 22 B. Whether Personal Jurisdiction is Reasonable and Fair 23 The reasonableness inquiry “is not limited to the specific facts giving rise to, or relating to, 24 the particular litigation.” Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1355. For the reasonableness inquiry, the burden is on 25 the defendant, who must “present a compelling case that the presence of some other considerations 26 would render jurisdiction unreasonable under the five-factor test articulated by the Supreme Court 27 in Burger King [Corporation v. Rudewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475–77 (1985)].” Breckenridge, 444 F.3d 28 Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 5 1 1356, 1363 (Fed. Cir. 2006). The five factors outlined in Burger King include: “(1) the burden on 2 the defendant; (2) the forum State’s interest in adjudicating the dispute; (3) the plaintiff’s interest 3 in obtaining convenient and effective relief; (4) the interstate judicial system’s interest in obtaining 4 the most efficient resolution of controversies; and (5) the shared interest of the several States in 5 furthering fundamental substantive social policies.” Avocent, 552 F.3d at 1331 (citing Burger 6 King, 471 U.S. at 475–77). United States District Court Northern District of California 7 First, Zipit argues that it would be burdened by litigating in California because all fourteen 8 of its employees are based in South Carolina and because it “conducts no business in California 9 and has never availed itself of any California court.” Def.’s Reply, p.1. Undoubtedly, adjudication 10 in California will create some burden for Zipit because of the distance between California and 11 South Carolina. At the same time, because “territorial presence frequently will enhance a potential 12 defendant’s affiliation with a State and reinforce the reasonable foreseeability of suit there,” 13 Zipit’s previous in-person meetings with Apple in California weigh against Zipit’s burden in 14 litigating there. Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1357 (quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477) (internal 15 quotations omitted). 16 Apple further argues against Zipit’s burden, claiming that Zipit’s recent litigation efforts, 17 in various other district courts outside of California, demonstrates that Zipit would not suffer an 18 undue burden to litigate in California. See Pl.’s Resp. to Motion, Dkt. No. 24, p. 11. In Avocent, 19 the Federal Circuit considered whether it was reasonable that a defendant’s litigations “in other 20 fora subject it to specific personal jurisdiction in [the subject forum].” Avocent, 552 F.3d at 1339. 21 The Federal Circuit answered this question in the negative, stating that it was “aware of no 22 precedent that holds that the filing of a suit in a particular state subjects that party to specific 23 personal jurisdiction everywhere else.” Id. Similarly, this Court declines to consider Zipit’s 24 litigations in other fora in answering the question of whether specific personal jurisdiction is 25 established in California. 26 In terms of the remaining factors considered under the reasonableness inquiry, it is 27 established that “California has a substantial interest in protecting its residents from unwarranted 28 Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 6 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 claims of patent infringement.” Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1356 (quoting Elecs. for Imaging, 340 F.3d at 2 1352). Apple, “which is headquartered in California, indisputably has an interest in protecting 3 itself from patent infringement by obtaining relief ‘from a nearby federal court’ in its home 4 forum.” Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1356 (quoting Breckenridge, 444 F.3d at 1367–68). Moreover, the 5 judicial system’s interest in an efficient resolution would be satisfied by jurisdiction in California, 6 where at least one of the parties is located. See id. Finally, neither Apple nor Zipit have asserted 7 any “potential clash of substantive social policies between competing fora.” Levita Magnetics Int’l 8 Corp. v. Attractive Surgical, LLC, No. 19-CV-04605-JSW, 2020 WL 4580504, at *6 (N.D. Cal. 9 Apr. 1, 2020) (quoting Synthes (U.S.A.) v. G.M. Dos Reis Jr. Ind. Com de Equip. Medico, 563 10 F.3d 1285, 1300 (Fed. Cir. 2009)); see also Xilinx, 848 F.3d at 1356 (quoting Elecs. for Imaging, 11 340 F.3d at 1352) (explaining that “the same body of federal patent law would govern the patent 12 invalidity claim irrespective of the forum”). Ultimately, because the majority of reasonableness 13 factors weigh in favor of adjudicating in California or, at the least, do not weigh significantly in 14 favor of either party, Apple and California’s interests are not clearly outweighed by Zipit’s. As 15 such, jurisdiction over Zipit in California would not be unreasonable. Nonetheless, the Court’s 16 inquiry cannot end here. 17 The Federal Circuit has held that “the exercise of personal jurisdiction . . . would be 18 unconstitutional when ‘[a]ll of the contacts were for the purpose of warning against infringement 19 or negotiating license agreements, and [the defendant] lacked a binding obligation in the forum.’” 20 Levita, 2020 WL 4580504, at *6 (quoting Breckenridge, 444 F.3d at 1364). Further, “[t]he Federal 21 Circuit’s command is clear—without at least some contractual relationship to the forum, an out- 22 of-state defendant in a patent infringement dispute cannot be subject to adjudication there.” Id. 23 From the facts in the record, all of Zipit’s contacts in California, including its in-person meetings, 24 “were for the purpose of warning against infringement” and Apple has failed to demonstrate that 25 Zipit has any “contractual relationship” or any other “binding obligation in the forum.” Levita, 26 2020 WL 4580504, at *6 (quoting Breckenridge, 444 F.3d at 1364). Because of Zipit’s lack of 27 binding obligations tying it to California and because Zipit’s contacts with California all related to 28 Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 7 1 the attempted resolution of the status of the Zipit Patents, the Court finds that specific personal 2 jurisdiction over Zipit would be unreasonable. Accordingly, the Court lacks jurisdiction over Zipit. 3 IV. 4 5 Conclusion In light of the foregoing, the Court GRANTS Zipit’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and DISMISSES Apple’s action against Zipit. 6 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: February 12, 2021 ______________________________________ EDWARD J. DAVILA United States District Judge 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Case No.: 5:20-cv-04448-EJD ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS 8