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Celgard, LLC v. SK Innovation Co., Ltd.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

July 6, 2015

CELGARD, LLC, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
SK INNOVATION CO., LTD., Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina in No. 3:13-cv-00254-MOC-DSC, Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr.

MARTIN RICHARD LUECK, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, LLP, Minneapolis, MN, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by ANDREW DOUGLAS HEDDEN, JAMIE R. KURTZ; BRYAN J. VOGEL, New York, NY.

J. MICHAEL JAKES, Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by CHARLES THOMAS COLLINS-CHASE, HALA S. MOURAD; CORTNEY SCOTT ALEXANDER, Atlanta, GA; CHARLES HYUK SUH, Reston, VA.

Before NEWMAN, REYNA, and WALLACH, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Reyna, Circuit Judge.

Celgard, LLC appeals the dismissal of its patent infringement suit by the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court determined it lacked personal jurisdiction over SK Innovation Co., Ltd. (" SKI" ) under either a purposeful-direction theory or a stream-of-commerce theory. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the dismissal.

I. Background

A. The Parties And Their Businesses

Celgard is a developer and manufacturer of battery membranes. The membranes Celgard develops are used to separate chemical cell components in lithium-ion batteries, preventing contact between the positive and negative electrodes. Celgard developed a separator technology that uses a ceramic composite coating that helps prevent electrical shorting. Celgard obtained a patent for the ceramic-coated separator technology, United States Patent No. 6,432,586 (" '586 patent" ). This technology is used in rechargeable batteries in several emerging industries, including electronic vehicles (" EV" ) and consumer electronic (" CE" ) devices such as laptops and cellular phones. Celgard is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

SKI is a manufacturer of separators for use in lithium-ion batteries. SKI mainly supplies the separators to third-party manufacturers. But SKI also manufactures batteries that include the separators it produces. SKI's principal place of business is in Seoul, Korea. All of SKI's design, manufacturing, and sales operations are based in Korea.

B. Procedural History

In April 2013, Celgard sued SKI for infringement of the '586 patent in the Western District of North Carolina. Celgard alleged in the complaint that SKI's separators infringed the '586 patent. Celgard sought to establish the district court's jurisdiction based on allegations that SKI purposefully directed activities at the forum state through sales and offers for sale of its accused separators to residents of North Carolina. J.A. 66. The complaint did not specify to whom the offers or sales were made.

SKI moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction on the basis of an absence of evidence that SKI ever sold or offered for sale the accused products in North Carolina. J.A. 129-31. In support of its motion, SKI provided a sworn declaration from a senior manager of SKI, stating that all of SKI's sales are to customers outside of the United States. J.A. 111. The declarant stated that SKI had no knowledge of any established sales channels in North Carolina for its battery separators, and that SKI had no control over where or to whom SKI's customers subsequently sold or distributed batteries incorporating SKI's separators. Id. SKI, through the declarant, agreed to be subject to specific personal jurisdiction in New York State. J.A. 113.

Celgard opposed SKI's motion. In its opposition, Celgard continued to assert that SKI was subject to personal jurisdiction under a purposeful-direction theory, based on offers for sale to a customer in North Carolina. J.A. 146. Celgard argued that jurisdiction was proper under a stream-of-commerce jurisdictional theory, based on alleged sales by SKI to third-party manufacturers of CE devices who, in turn, offer the devices for sale in North Carolina. Id. Celgard also filed an alternative ...


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