Samsung Fights Patent Biz's Waco Transfer Bid

By Andrew Karpan
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Law360 (March 5, 2021, 7:56 PM EST) -- Samsung has told U.S. District Judge Alan Albright that a patent-holding company shouldn't be able to transfer an infringement case against Samsung to Waco, Texas, because the parties already agreed to keep the dispute in Austin and the suit is not at all like VLSI's case against Intel.

In a motion filed Thursday, Samsung Electronics pointed to the terms of a joint stipulation the smartphone manufacturer reached with Ancora Technologies Inc. last January. Samsung says in signing it Ancora agreed to give up the right to a pretrial venue fight and shouldn't get to ditch that deal now. In the suit, Ancora claims Samsung's phone infringe its cellphone security patent.

"The parties here intentionally and knowingly entered an agreement to litigate this specific matter in Austin, and this agreement should be enforced," Samsung said.

In its bid to show that courthouses in Austin would soon open after COVID-19 closures, Samsung cited Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's decision Tuesday to rescind Texas' mask mandate, although court officials in the state told Law360 that pandemic restrictions would remain unaffected. Travis County, where Austin is located, reported 91 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and 186 the day before, according to the city's website.

"No such extraordinary circumstances exist in this case. Given the decrease in COVID-19 cases and the increase of vaccinations, trial in Austin is likely to occur this year," Samsung said.

Ancora's bid to move the case to Waco came the same week Judge Albright's Waco courthouse began trying the first in-person patent trial in the country this year. That trial led to a $2.2 billion win on Tuesday for patent-holding company VLSI Technology LLC when a jury found Intel ripped off two of its computer chip patents.

The motion from Ancora explicitly cited Judge Albright's rulings in the Intel case, which was also scheduled to take place in Austin but was sent to Waco after a two-month battle before the Federal Circuit.

But Samsung says Intel and VLSI never reached an agreement on venue before the case began, and the standards judging transfer of this case are tighter.

Judge Albright seemed to agree. Samsung quoted from comments the judge made during a discovery hearing in January, when attorneys for Ancora first raised the idea.

"Because you all had this agreement, I would love for this case to go to trial in Austin," Judge Albright said, according to the transcript. "I'm not going to move it to Waco unless the alternative to moving it to Waco is that it might not get tried this year."

Ancora filed suit against both Samsung and LG Electronics in 2019, following a successful run of patent suits against Apple, Dell Inc., Hewlett Packard Inc. and Microsoft, the latter of which had once employed Ancora founder Miki Mullor. Ancora said Mullor invented the cellphone security patent at issue, and it's alleging both Samsung and LG's phones infringe it.

The Samsung and LG cases were consolidated later that year, and jury selection in Ancora's case against LG is currently scheduled for June. The Samsung trial is set to start April 19, but the Austin courthouse remains closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

"A several-month delay to the current trial date would not result in manifest injustice," Samsung says.

Representatives for the parties did not respond to the request for comment on Friday.

The patent-in-suit is U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941.

Ancora Technologies Inc. is represented by Charles L. Ainsworth and Robert Christopher Bunt of Parker Bunt & Ainsworth PC and Nicholas S. Crown, Zachary Savage, Steven M. Seigel, Lexie G. White and Andres Healy of Susman Godfrey LLP.

LG Electronics is represented by Natalie A. Bennett, Elizabeth M. Chiaviello, Thomas Davis, Collin W. Park and Winstol D. Carter Jr. of Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP.

Samsung Electronics is represented by Michael E. Bowlus, Jared Frisch, Robert T. Haslam, Chang Sik Kim, Eric T. O'Brien, Matthew Phelps, Richard L. Rainey, Scott A. Schrader, Anupam Sharma, Sinan Utku and Thomas E. Garten of Covington & Burling LLP, and Andrew Thompson Gorham, Melissa Richards Smith and Harry Lee Gillam Jr. of Gillam & Smith LLP.

The case is Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. LG Electronics Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-00034, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

--Additional reporting by J. Edward Moreno. Editing by Gemma Horowitz.

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