The Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision (it does happen) today in TC Heartland LLC v Kraft Food Group Brands LLC. The Court found that a plaintiff must bring patent infringement suits in the defendant’s state of incorporation or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.
This holding overturns almost 30 years of precedent in the federal courts and should put an end to the odd popularity of geographically inconvenient districts like the Eastern District of Texas.
The statute in question is 28 USC 1400(b): “Any 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.”
The United States Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had interpreted this section in view of 28 USC 1391(c), which states that “[f]or purposes of venue under this chapter, a defendant that is a corporation shall be deemed to reside in any judicial district in which it is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the action is commenced.” VE Holding Corp. v. Johnson Gas Appliance Co., 917 F. 2d 1574 (Fed. Cir. 1990).
The Supreme Court rejected the Federal Circuit’s interpretation, “The current version of §1391 does not contain any indication that Congress intended to alter the meaning of §1400(b).”
This holding should give rise to increased patent litigation suits in Delaware and other states that are friendly to corporations.
Justice Thomas wrote the opinion for the Court.