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Judge Matsumoto “Serves Up” Transfer Motions for Improper Venue in EDNY

On April 7, 2020, U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto (EDNY) granted the motions to transfer for improper venue of two sets of defendants comprising the architects (“Rossetti”) and the engineers (“Morgan”) that designed and built the allegedly patent infringing retractable roof systems of the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong tennis stadiums located in Queens, N.Y. as part of the National Tennis Center.

Rossetti Inc. is an architectural firm incorporated in Michigan with its place of business in Detroit, Michigan. Rossetti P.C. is a New York corporation with an address in Manhattan “to receive service of process and limited mail.” Rossetti P.C. was formed “to comply with New York’s requirement that an architect of record in an in-state project be registered in the state.” Rossetti P.C. has no employees of its own and delegates work to Rossetti Inc. employees. Rossetti has worked on various projects at the National Tennis Center since 1990. From 2012-2018, during which Rossetti worked on approximately a dozen United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center (“USTA”) projects, all work was performed from Michigan. Employees of Rossetti occasionally visited the National Tennis Center for certain portions of the project.

The Morgan defendants are Ohio corporations each of which has a principal place of business in Ohio. The majority of Morgan’s work dealt with designing aspects of the roofs and building mechanization components. Morgan also sent employees to the National Tennis Center “to perform its obligations under the agreements.” Morgan also entered into a subcontract to provide periodic maintenance and testing of the retractable roofs.

The Court found that venue was not proper because, while the National Tennis Center is a physical place in the district from which Rossetti and Morgan conducted business, it was not a “regular and established” place of business “of the Defendant.”

Plaintiff Uni-Systems, LLC (“Uni-Systems”) argued that the National Tennis Center was a permanent place of business for Rossetti. The Court rejected this argument, finding that Rossetti’s “only regular and established place of business during the relevant period was its Detroit headquarters” and “it took no steps to make its presence at the [National Tennis Center] anything more than sporadic and temporary.” The Court found that sporadic services for temporary projects “does not lend any permanence” to Rossetti’s business at the National Tennis Center. Using a similar analysis, the Court found that Morgan’s interactions at the National Tennis Center were even more sporadic, and could not be considered permanent.

The Court also determined that the National Tennis Center is not a physical place “of the Defendant.” The Court found that the location was a place of business of Rossetti and Morgan’s customer, the USTA. Uni-Systems provided no facts to demonstrate that either Rossetti or Morgan had ratified the National Tennis Center as its place of business. Both merely performed services for its customer at the customer’s location. As such, the Court found that venue was not proper in the district.

Case: Uni-Systems, LLC, v. United States Tennis Association National Tennis Center Inc., No. 17-cv-147(KAM)(CAP), Apr. 7, 2020