Law360 (March 29, 2021, 8:47 PM EDT) -- U.S. District Judge Alan Albright on Sunday transferred the second of three patent trials Intel Corp. is facing against VLSI Technology LLC to his other court in Waco, Texas, where the tech giant was recently slammed with a $2.18 billion jury verdict.
The Austin courthouse is still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the Waco courthouse is running and set up with safety protocols, so Judge Albright said it made sense to transfer the case before the April trial. A third trial is set for June 7, but he refused to transfer that one for now.
"The court will address re-transferring the final case as the trial date approaches and the Austin courthouse has an opportunity to reopen," he said.
VLSI, which is owned by investment funds with assets managed by Fortress Investment Group LLC, sued Intel in April 2019 over allegations that Intel's products that use "'Speed Shift' technology with a fully integrated voltage regulator" infringe its integrated circuit patents. The suit was originally filed in Waco, but was shipped within the Western District of Texas to Austin at Intel's request that October.
There are three related cases that had been consolidated for pretrial proceedings, and all had been transferred to Austin. Judge Albright transferred the lead case back to Waco in December, and the trial began in February. On March 2, the jury came back with a $2.18 billion verdict for VLSI.
The second trial is set for April 12, and VLSI asked for it to be conducted in Waco.
Intel had objected to the transfer, saying VLSI is just trying to rush the trial and that Judge Albright should wait until the Austin court reopens.
"Trying a patent case in Waco in April — just a little over a month after the enormous verdict in the first case — would be especially prejudicial to Intel," the company said. "Due to the publicity in Waco surrounding the first trial and verdict, Intel is unlikely to get a fair trial in Waco so soon after the first verdict."
But Judge Albright wasn't persuaded, and instead said "the factors the court considered and applied in re-transferring the lead case to Waco apply equally strongly in favor of transferring the first of these two related cases back to Waco."
In addition to the large verdict, this set of cases has drawn attention for the way Judge Albright is handling the docket. In particular, a group of law professors recently said too much of the docket has remained sealed and inaccessible to the public.
"If the Western District of Texas is going to hear some of patent law's most important cases, it should not do so in secret," the professors said. "Unfortunately, that appears to have [been] just what happened in one the highest dollar value patent trials in recent history."
Counsel for VLSI and Intel didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 6,366,522 and 6,633,187.
VLSI is represented by J. Mark Mann, G. Blake Thompson and Andy Tindel of Mann Tindel Thompson, Craig D. Cherry of Haley & Olson PC and Morgan Chu, Benjamin W. Hattenbach, Keith Orso, Christopher Abernethy, Amy E. Proctor, Dominik Slusarczyk, Charlotte J. Wen, Brian Weissenberg, Jordan Nafekh and Babak Redjaian of Irell & Manella LLP.
Intel is represented by William F. Lee, Louis W. Tompros, Kate Saxton, Gregory H. Lantier and Amanda L. Major of WilmerHale, J. Stephen Ravel of Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP and James E. Wren of Baylor Law School.
The case is VLSI Technology LLC v. Intel Corp., case number 1:19-cv-00977, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.
--Additional reporting by Tiffany Hu and Dave Simpson. Editing by Bruce Goldman.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the relationship between VLSI and Fortress. The error has been fixed.
For a reprint of this article, please contact email@example.com.