CAFC Resolves District Court Split: Defendant Cannot Use Post-Suit Unilateral Statement of Consent to Preclude Rule 4(k)(2) and Transfer Case to Alternative Forum
In re Stingray IP Solutions, LLC., No. 2023-102 (January 9, 2023) (Lourie, Taranto, Stark*)
Stingray petitioned for a writ of mandamus seeking to undo an order transferring the case from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Stingray had filed suit against TP-Link Technology Co., Ltd., a company organized and headquartered in China, and TP-Link International Ltd. (which later changed its name to TP-Link Corporation Limited), a company organized and headquartered in Hong Kong. The TP-Link entities moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the Central District of California. The TP-Link entities argued that Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 4(k)(2) did not cure the jurisdictional defects because the TP-Link entities “would be amenable to suit in the Central District of California.” Following discovery on jurisdiction and venue, the district court granted the motion to transfer on the grounds that the exercise of personal jurisdiction by the Eastern District of Texas would be unreasonable and, under Rule 4(k)(2), improper because of the representations made by the TP-Link entities. Stingray then filed its petition for a writ of mandamus.
In an opinion authored by Judge Taranto, the panel observed that there existed a split between the district courts on whether a defendant can defeat jurisdiction under Rule 4(k)(2) by unilaterally consenting to suit in a different district. This division rendered mandamus review appropriate in this situation, since it provided the panel the opportunity to resolve that dispute. The panel therefore rejected the TP-Link entities’ argument that mandamus review of a ruling on a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) was inappropriate since it could be appealed from a final judgment.
Regarding the merits of Stingray’s petition, the panel held that a defendant, such as the TP-Link entities, could not use a “unilateral statement of consent” to preclude application of Rule 4(k)(2) and thereby obtain a transfer of the case. The panel confirmed that a defendant such as the TP-Link entities bears the burden of showing that the suit could have been brought in the transferee forum regardless of consent. The panel therefore vacated the district court’s transfer order and remanded the case for further proceedings, including whether the TP-Link entities could show that Stingray could have filed suit in the Central District of California and/or whether transfer under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) would be appropriate.
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