Cutsforth Inc., a Minnesota-based maker of parts for electric turbines, and its law firm, Fish & Richardson of Minneapolis, won a landmark decision that keeps a long-running patent lawsuit in a Minnesota federal court.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit put aside an order to move a patent case involving Cutsforth from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. The move was sought by the defendant in the case, MotivePower Inc., a maker of locomotive and electric equipment.
The decision set the framework for a more balanced review of where a patent infringement case should be filed, said Fish & Richardson principal Matt Samuel, who helps represent Cutsforth.
“The court, in deciding whether it should transfer the case somewhere else, can look at the big picture, can take into account concepts of what’s fair to the plaintiff,” Samuel said in an interview. “If the lawsuit has been going on for several years and the parties and the court have done a lot of work to learn the technology, then those factors are relevant to a court in considering whether to keep the case.”
In 2012, Cutsforth sued MotivePower saying it infringed on several patents it held for the design of its brush holders used by power companies.
After years of litigation in Minnesota, MotivePower requested earlier this year that the case be transferred to Pittsburgh, where it has facilities and could have benefited from a hometown jury if the case went to trial.
MotivePower was one of several patent case defendants that sought transfers in the wake of a Supreme Court decision in May that effectively limited where companies could be sued to mostly where they were incorporated.
In August, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson granted MotivePower’s motion to transfer the case to Pennsylvania.
“The court regrets the waste of judicial resources after five years of litigation, and the burden that must now be imposed on a district unfamiliar with this case,” she wrote in her opinion. “Nonetheless, the motion must be granted.”
Last week’s Federal Circuit decision reversed Richard Nelson’s order. The circuit court wrote there are instances when a defendant can no longer contest the court venue and Cutsforth’s arguments against the change in venue shouldn’t have been overlooked.
The decision could affect other cases.
“The Cutsforth case to my knowledge is the only case where the case had actually been transferred to a different place and the federal circuit opinion is bringing it back,” Samuel said.