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Supreme Court Restricts Venue for Patent Litigation: TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods

In TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the United States Supreme Court on May 22 unanimously limited the proper venue in which patent infringement lawsuits can be brought. The venue statute specific to patent cases provides that “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) (emphasis added).

The Supreme Court held that a “domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute.” Thus, venue is only proper for patent cases in (a) a defendant’s State of incorporation or (b) where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.

In doing so, the Court overturned Federal Circuit law that permitted venue to be found wherever a defendant was subject to personal jurisdiction—i.e., wherever a defendant committed acts of infringement, which for many defendants was nationwide.

Implications – An Increase in Delaware Patent Litigation?

The TC Heartland decision is expected to deliver dramatic results to the patent litigation landscape throughout the nation. Many defendants will no longer be subject to suit in the Eastern District of Texas, a district where a high percentage of all patent cases have been brought in recent years. Instead, venue will only be proper where defendants are incorporated or where they have a regular and established place of business. For many corporations, their place of incorporation is Delaware—making it a viable patent venue in many cases. It is expected that—given the choice between Delaware and a defendant’s home turf elsewhere—many patent plaintiffs will opt to file patent infringement cases in Delaware, a traditionally popular venue in its own right.

Delaware has a long been a popular venue for patent litigation for over a century and has been the second-busiest court behind the Eastern District of Texas in recent years. As such, the state is well-equipped to handle the expected influx of patent cases.

Only time will tell how patent litigation filings will normalize in the wake of TC Heartland. At a minimum, it is expected that patent filings will fall in the Eastern District of Texas and rise in other districts. It is also expected that Delaware will see a significant rise in filings in comparison to most other districts, something the judiciary and legal professionals in Delaware are apt to handle.

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About this Author

Legal, Business, Francis DiGiovanni, Intellectual Property, Drinker Biddle Law F
Partner

Francis DiGiovanni is a partner in the firm's Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Group.

Frank represents clients in a variety of areas, principally patent litigation, counseling, and opinions, trademark and copyright litigation, unfair competition and trade secrets in the mechanical and chemical arts as well as other diverse areas of technology. As a patent litigator, Frank has secured victories for his clients on both the plaintiff and defense side, including a victory in a patent infringement jury trial, coupled with successful post-trial proceedings, which resulted in an...

302-467-4266

Thatcher represents clients in a variety of matters including patent litigation, patent prosecution, patent counseling and opinions, trademark and copyright litigation, and unfair competition and trade secrets in the Electronic, Computer and Internet fields as well as the Mechanical Arts and other diverse areas of technology. Thatcher has worked on matters involving telecommunications, signal processing, semiconductor fabrication, digital and analog circuits, networking, computer-related business methods, and e-commerce.
 

In General. Thatcher earned his law degree from University of Pittsburgh School of Law cum laude. He earned his bachelor’s degree from University of Miami. While at the University of Miami, Thatcher focused his electrical studies in the areas of acoustics, digital audio, transducers, multimedia, and speech and signal processing. In addition, Thatcher designed an efficient and accurate software-based speech recognition module.

302-467-4211