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The Choice Is Not Yours: Foreign Defendants Cannot Avoid Personal Jurisdiction by Post-suit, Unilateral Forum Designation

| Mengmeng DuJeremiah S. Helm, Ph.D.

IN RE: STINGRAY IP SOLUTIONS, LLC

Before Lourie, Taranto, and Stark.  Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Summary: A defendant’s post-suit, unilateral consent to suit in another state cannot defeat personal jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(k)(2).

Stingray sued TP-Link, a group of affiliated foreign businesses, for patent infringement in the Eastern District of Texas. TP-Link argued the Eastern District of Texas did not have personal jurisdiction and moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction or. alternatively, to transfer to the Central District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1406.  Typically Rule 4(k)(2) provides personal jurisdiction in any District over a defendant who is not subject to personal jurisdiction in any individual state but has sufficient contacts with the United States as a whole.  But, TP-Link argued, Rule 4(k)(2) did not apply because TP-Link would consent to personal jurisdiction in the Central District of California. After jurisdictional and venue discovery, the district court accepted TP-Link’s representation that “CDCA has both proper jurisdiction and venue” and transferred the cases. Stingray petitioned for a writ of mandamus.

The Federal Circuit granted mandamus to correct the basic and undecided legal question of whether under Federal Circuit law, a defendant’s post-suit consent to suit in a different district can unilaterally defeat personal jurisdiction under Rule 4(k)(2). The Federal Circuit explained that Rule 4(k)(2) does not allow a defendant to avoid jurisdiction under Rule 4(k)(2) via unilateral, post-suit consent in a different district. In particular, the Federal Circuit noted Rule 4(k)(2) was introduced to prevent defendants who had sufficient contact with the United States from escaping jurisdiction in all states, and not to allow a defendant the unilateral ability to compel transfer via post-suit consent in a different forum.  Accordingly, the Federal Circuit vacated the district court's transfer orders and remanded the case for consideration of whether TP-Link could establish that the case should be transferred for other reasons.

Editor: Paul Stewart