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Telecoms to Fight Patent Suit on Their Own Turf

(CN) - A lawsuit against AT&T, Verizon and Qwest Communications cannot stay in Marshall, Texas, the Federal Circuit ruled, noting that no witnesses to the case live within 100 miles of the state's northeastern city.

Several witnesses live within 100 miles of Dallas, which is where the telecom giants petitioned to move the case.

A federal judge had previously affirmed a magistrate judge's earlier decision to deny the request in the interest of judicial economy. The judges had admitted that Dallas-based Northern District of Texas would be more convenient for witnesses, but Marshall was a better venue because its court had previously handled a now-settled suit dealing with the same patent and had defined 25 of the patent's terms.

On appeal in Washington, the Federal Circuit ruled that the convenience to witnesses outweighs the patent's 5-year-old history with the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall.

Red River Fiber Optic's suit, which was filed in 2008, says that AT&T, Verizon and Qwest's use of end-to-end fiber optic transmission systems infringed on Red River's patent for the technology.

To interpret that any prior suit involving the same patent can override a compelling reason to transfer would be inconsistent with precedent, Judge Richard Linn wrote for the Federal Circuit's three judge panel.

"We deem the Eastern District's previous claim construction in a case that settled more than five years before the filing of this lawsuit to be too tenuous a reason to support denial of transfer," Linn concluded.

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