On Monday, March 27, the US Supreme Court will hear a case that could change the patent landscape in the country.
With numerous amicus briefs filed, TC Heartland v Kraft Foods is a case of great importance that may fundamentally change patent venue rules in the US.
In December last year, the Supreme Court granted TC Heartland’s writ of certiorari.
Kraft Foods had brought a patent infringement lawsuit against TC Heartland, an Indiana-based company that creates water enhancers, at the US District Court for the District of Delaware.
TC Heartland unsuccessfully requested a transfer of the case to the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The Indiana-based company then appealed against the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
But the appeals court handed down a judgment denying TC Heartland’s petition for a writ of mandamus in April last year.
TC Heartland had urged the court to set aside a 26-year-old ruling, VE Holding Corp v Johnson Gas Appliance, which said patent suits can be filed in any district where the defendant sells its products.
On Monday, the Supreme Court will answer the question of whether 28 USC, section 1400(b) is the sole and exclusive provision governing venue in patent infringement actions and is not to be supplemented by 28 USC, section 1391(c).
The patent venue statute, section 1400(b), provides that patent infringement actions “may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides”.
The statute governing “venue generally”, section 1391, contains a subsection (c) that, where applicable, deems a corporate entity to reside in multiple judicial districts.
In February, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) submitted a second amicus brief asking the court to change the rules in a bid to limit the number of lawsuits being filed at the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a popular destination for patent claims.
Although the Texas court was not part of the proceedings, it had been brought into consideration as part of the argument put forward by the EFF.
That same month, other associations and companies, including the American Bar Association, Dell, Intel and the American Intellectual Property Law Association, also filed amicus briefs.
That’s not all—the attorney general of Texas, along with 16 other state attorneys, urged the Supreme Court to end the Texas court’s hold on patent litigation.
Ken Paxton’s brief asked the court to reverse rulings by the Federal Circuit which have “allowed forum-shopping by patent holders who are seeking to influence the outcome of their cases with their venue choices”.