Supreme Court to Review Patent Venue Statutes in TC Heartland Case

December 16, 2016

The US Supreme Court has decided to address the long-simmering issue of patent venue, granting certiorari in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods on December 14 (2016-0341). Petitioner TC Heartland has challenged Federal Circuit precedent interpreting the governing venue statute for patent litigation, 28 U.S.C. Section 1400(b). Under that statute, patent lawsuits “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”. The first phrase is at issue: the Federal Circuit ruled in VE Holding v. Johnson Gas Appliance that the more expansive definition of “resides” in the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. Section 1391, applies to the term “resides” for patent suits under 1400(b), as well. As a result, venue in patent cases is proper wherever the court has personal jurisdiction. TC Heartland asserts that 2011 changes to the general statute confirm that it does not control where a “more specific venue provision applies”, arguing that corporate residence in patent cases should instead be defined as it was by the Supreme Court in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Prods. Corp.: as a company’s state of incorporation. This far narrower definition would significantly reduce the venue options for plaintiffs in patent cases.

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