Blaski v. Hoffman

Decision Date25 November 1958
Docket NumberNo. 12285.,12285.
Citation260 F.2d 317
PartiesJohn F. BLASKI et al., Petitioners, v. Honorable Julius J. HOFFMAN, United States District Judge, Respondent.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

Daniel V. O'Keeffe, John O'C. Fitz-Gerald, Lloyd C. Root, Chicago, Ill., for petitioner.

Charles J. Merriam, Chicago, Ill., for respondent.


Rehearing Denied En Banc November 25, 1958.

MAJOR, Circuit Judge.

This Court, on July 1, 1958, rendered an opinion denying petitioners' petition for a writ of mandamus. Upon petition for rehearing, it is ordered that such opinion be withdrawn and that all orders entered pursuant thereto be vacated and set aside.

The facts which give rise to the legal issue for decision are not in dispute. Petitioners, as plaintiffs, on March 1, 1957 filed in the United States District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (hereinafter referred to as the Texas Court or District), a complaint charging R. P. Howell, Jr. and Lifetime Metal Building Company with patent infringement. Plaintiffs reside or are doing business within the Northern District of Illinois (hereinafter referred to as the Illinois District). The complaint alleged acts of infringement committed by defendants in the Texas District, and no acts of infringement, so far as known, committed by either of the defendants in the Illinois District. Service of process was had upon defendants in the Texas District. Defendants answered the complaint and the case was set for trial.

In the meantime, defendants submitted a motion requesting transfer of the action to the Illinois District, under Title 28 U.S.C.A. § 1404(a), stating in their motion that defendants waived lack of venue in the Illinois District. Over objection of plaintiffs (petitioners here), the Texas Court directed that, for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interest of justice, the action be transferred to the Illinois District.

Plaintiffs, after denial of their motion to vacate the order of transfer, filed a petition for writ of mandamus in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, requesting that Court to issue an order to show cause why a writ of mandamus should not be issued against the Texas District Judge, nullifying the transfer order. The Court of Appeals (5 Cir.) held that the District Court was empowered by statute to make the transfer, and denied leave to file the petition. Ex parte Blaski, 245 F.2d 737.

The papers and records in the Texas District infringement action were received in the Clerk's Office of the Illinois District pursuant to the transfer order. Thereupon, petitioners filed a motion in the Illinois District for an order directing the transfer of and remandment of the action to the Texas District, on the ground that the Texas Court was without power to order the transfer and, consequently, the Illinois Court did not acquire jurisdiction. A hearing on the petition and response thereto was had before Honorable Julius J. Hoffman, a Judge of the Illinois District and respondent in the instant proceeding. Respondent, on March 14, 1958, entered an order denying petitioners' motion, and in an oral opinion stated his reasons therefor. Thereupon, petitioners filed in this Court the petition now before us for a writ of mandamus directing respondent to order such transfer and remand.

No question is raised, in fact all parties concede that under Sec. 1651(a), Title 28 U.S.C.A., mandamus is an appropriate means for testing the legality of the order in controversy. Furthermore, our jurisdiction, if there be any doubt, is supported by the decision of this Court in Chicago, R. I. & P. R. Co. v. Igoe, 7 Cir., 212 F.2d 378.

The questions for decision appear to be correctly stated in petitioners' brief, and are as follows:

"(1) Whether a district court, having proper venue and jurisdiction over defendants in a patent infringement action, has the power under Section 1404(a), Title 28, U.S.C.A. to transfer the cause of action, on motion of the defendants and over the objections of the plaintiffs, to a district in which venue is not proper; and
"(2) Whether, under such circumstances, the transferee court acquires jurisdiction, or has the power to accept such a transfer."

Two statutory provisions are pertinent: Secs. 1400(b) and 1404(a), Title 28 U.S.C.A. § 1400(b), a venue provision, specifically applicable to actions for patent infringement, provides:

"Any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business. Italics supplied."

Section 1404(a), relating to change of venue, provides:

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought. Italics supplied."

It is not open to doubt but that petitioners' action was properly brought in the Texas District, where defendants not only resided but where the acts of infringement took place and where defendants had their regular and established place of business. It appears plain, also, that venue could not properly have been laid in the Illinois District. A solution of the problem before us reduces itself to the legal effect to be given the concluding phrase of Sec. 1404(a), "where it might have been brought." Does that phrase refer to the district where such an action "may be brought" under Sec. 1400(b)? If the question was of first impression, we would have no hesitancy in answering in the affirmative. It is a contradiction of terms and does violence to the plain, unambiguous language which Congress has employed, to reason that the Texas Court, with power to transfer the action only to a district "where it might have been brought," could exercise that power by ordering transfer to a district in which it could not have been brought.

If the Texas District had the power on motion of defendants to transfer the action to the Illinois District, it likewise had the power on a similar motion to transfer it to any District Court in the United States. Counsel for respondent argues that the Illinois District was one where the action "might have been brought" because it had general jurisdiction of an action for patent infringement and acquired jurisdiction of defendants by their motion to transfer and their consent to trial in the Illinois District. Precisely the same argument could be made in support of the power of the Texas District if transfer had been made to any other District Court in the United States. Counsel's argument, if accepted, renders the phrase "where it might have been brought" meaningless. The transfer provision would be complete absent the phrase of limitation. This phrase, however, cannot be ignored under the guise of statutory construction; to do so amounts to statutory emasculation.

It must be clearly kept in mind that there is no issue of discretion involved in the instant matter either on the part of the Texas District Judge in ordering the transfer or on the part of the respondent in refusing to remand it. The sole issue is that of power on the part of one to transfer, on the part of the other to accept and entertain jurisdiction. Also, the general rule should not be overlooked that a Federal Court has only such jurisdiction or power as Congress has specifically conferred. The venue where a patent infringement action may be brought, as well as the district to which it may be subsequently transferred, has been clearly delineated by Congress.

When Congress provided for transfer to a district "where it might have been brought," it is hardly open to doubt but that it referred to a district where the plaintiff, in a case sought to be transferred, had a right to bring the case. Under the decisions of the Supreme Court and other courts, the action could have been properly brought only in the district (1) where defendant resides or (2) where defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business. Under the admitted facts, the action could have been properly brought only in the Texas District. Conversely, it could not have been properly brought in the Illinois District.

In Stonite Products Co. v. Melvin Lloyd Co., 315 U.S. 561, 62 S.Ct. 780, 86 L.Ed. 1026, the question for determination was whether Sec. 48 of the Judicial Code (Title 28 U.S.C.A. § 109) was the sole provision governing venue of patent litigation. Referring to that section, the Court stated (at page 562 of 315 U.S., at page 780 of 62 S.Ct.):

"Section 48 gives jurisdiction of suits for patent infringement to the United States district courts in the district of which the defendant is an inhabitant or in any district in which the defendant shall have committed acts of infringement and have a regular and established place of business."

On the following page the Court stated:

"We hold that Section 48 is the exclusive provision controlling venue in patent infringement proceedings."

Section 48, before the Court in Stonite, was the predecessor venue provision to Sec. 1400(b) of the present Code. The holding in Stonite, however, is equally applicable to the present venue provision, Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 77 S.Ct. 787, 1 L.Ed. 2d 786. The Court in the latter case stated (at page 228 of 353 U.S. at page 791 of 77 S.Ct.):

"For it will be seen that § 1400(b) is equally clear and, also, that it deals specially and specifically with venue in patent infringement actions."

And again, on the following page:

"We hold that 28 U.S.C. § 1400 (b), 28 U.S.C.A. § 1400(b), is the sole and exclusive provision controlling venue in patent infringement actions * * *."

See also the recent opinion by Judge Mercer in Gas Products Corp. v. George...

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