Del. Corp. Can't Nix Suit on Improper Forum Grounds

By Michael Greene

Dec. 22 — The Delaware Chancery Court Dec. 17 refused to dismiss an intellectual property dispute filed against a Delaware corporation, even though the cause of action arose from events that occurred in India.

In refusing to dismiss the lawsuit on the ground that the plaintiff's jurisdictional choice was inappropriate, Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III found that defendant MoEngage Inc. hadn't shown that it would suffer an overwhelming hardship if the case was litigated in Delaware.

In its lawsuit, Pipal Tech Ventures Private Limited, an Indian corporation, alleged that two of its former employees had stolen a valuable computer application's source code and placed it into the defendant Delaware corporation.

Glasscock said the case at “first blush” seemed ripe for dismissal because it involved underlying tort and contractual issues related to India.

“Upon close examination, however, the alleged acts of the Defendant—holding, marketing and monetizing the purloined asset—as well as the weighing of other factors appropriate to consideration of this motion, lead me to find that the choice of forum here must be respected,” he wrote.

Not ‘Overwhelmingly Inconvenient.'

Acknowledging that it likely couldn't obtain jurisdiction over the former employees, Pipal Tech's lawsuit didn't seek legal redress for the alleged theft itself or alleged breaches of employee and non-disclosure agreements. Instead, the company asked the chancery court to declare Pipal Tech the owner of the allegedly stolen application and for damages pursuant to the Delaware Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under the forum non conveniens doctrine, claiming that Delaware has no connection to the lawsuit other than it is the “metaphysical location” of the application.

However, the court found that the plaintiff's choice of forum was neither overwhelmingly inappropriate nor inconsistent with the administration of justice.

“ My job in evaluating this motion is not to choose the ‘best,' or even a ‘proper' forum; instead, it is to respect the Plaintiff’s choice of forum unless the Defendant can show resulting hardship or inconvenience so profound that it overwhelms that choice,” Glasscock wrote. “While Delaware is not a convenient place for the Defendant to litigate, it has not shown that this venue is overwhelmingly inconvenient.”

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