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The Proctor & Gamble Co. v. Ranir, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

August 17, 2017

THE PROCTOR & GAMBLE COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
RANIR, LLC, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 14)

          TIMOTHY S. BLACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This civil case is before the Court on the motion of Defendant Ranir, LLC (“Ranir”) to dismiss the Complaint filed by Plaintiff The Proctor & Gamble Company (“P&G”) for improper venue (Doc. 14), and the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 23, 30).

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Introduction.

         The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), provides that civil actions for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district (1) “where the defendant resides” or (2) “where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.”

         The general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2), states that corporate defendants in civil cases are “deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction[.]” The procedural posture in this case is the result of uncertainty regarding where corporate patent defendants “reside” in light of previously conflicting decisions by the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit concerning the relationship between § 1400(b) and § 1391.

         In 1957, the Supreme Court concluded that, for purposes of § 1400(b), a domestic corporation “resides” only in its state of incorporation. See Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 226 (1957). In so holding, the Supreme Court rejected the notion that § 1400(b) incorporated the broader definition of “residence” found in § 1391. Id. at 228. The Supreme Court reasoned:

We think it is clear that § 1391(c) is a general corporation venue statute, whereas § 1400(b) is a special venue statute applicable, specifically, to all defendants in a particular type of actions, i.e., patent infringement actions. In these circumstances the law is settled that “However inclusive may be the general language of a statute, it ‘will not be held to apply to a matter specifically dealt with in another part of the same enactment ..... Specific terms prevail over the general in the same or another statute which otherwise might be controlling.'”

Fourco, 353 U.S. at 228-29.

         In 1990, the Federal Circuit held that subsequent Congressional amendments to § 1391 effectively abrogated the rule announced in Fourco. See VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F.2d 1574 (1990). In 1988, Congress amended § 1391(c) to state, in part: “[f]or purposes of venue under this chapter, a defendant that is a corporation shall be deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced.” VE Holding, 917 F.2d at 1578. The Federal Circuit held that inclusion of the language “for purposes of venue under this chapter” incorporated and redefined the definition of “resides” in § 1400(b), which is also located in Chapter 28 of the United States Code. Id. at 1578-80. Accordingly, under the Federal Circuit's interpretation, a corporate defendant in a patent case was deemed to “reside” in every judicial district in which it was subject to personal jurisdiction. Id. at 1584.

         B. P&G's Complaint.

         On March 20, 2017, P&G filed the Complaint. (Doc. 1). The Complaint alleges Ranir is infringing patents held by P&G used in tooth whitening strip products. (Id.) The Complaint argues Ranir is attempting to “ride on the coattails of P&G's success by selling tooth whitening strips that infringe P&G's patented technology.” (Id. at ¶ 9). The Complaint seeks declaratory judgment, preliminary and permanent injunctions, compensatory damages, treble damages, pre-judgment interest, attorney's fees and costs. (Id. at 13).

         The Complaint alleges that P&G is incorporated in Ohio with its principal place of business in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Ranir is a limited liability company organized under the laws of Delaware with its principal place of business in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 1-2). The Complaint states the Court “has personal jurisdiction over Ranir under the Ohio long-arm statute (O.R.C. § 2307.382) because Ranir contracts to supply and has supplied tooth whitening strips that infringe P&G's intellectual property in this State and in this District” and “[v]enue is proper in this Court under 28 U.S.C. §§ ...


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