Supreme Court’s TC Heartland Ruling Brings Patent Lawsuit Venues Home

On May 22, the Supreme Court gave defendants in patent infringement litigation an important tool to avoid arguing cases in far-flung courts. The case, TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, 581 U.S. ____ (2017), focused on the interpretation of the statute that determines where a patent infringement lawsuit can be filed. For infringement case purposes, the Court held that defendant corporations “reside” only in the state where they are incorporated. The ruling closes an important loophole that plaintiffs had previously used to sue defendants in districts far from the defendants’ home turf.

The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. §1400(b), provides that civil patent infringement cases “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.” Prior to TC Heartland, the term “resides” had been interpreted under the broader general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. §1391(c), which provides that a defendant resides “in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question.” In TC Heartland, the Court clarified that the general venue statute does not apply to the patent venue statute. Instead, a defendant corporation “resides” only where it is incorporated.

Slater Hersey & Lieberman LLP expects TC Heartland to have important consequences for companies facing infringement litigation. Under the clarified interpretation of the statute, defendants who are sued in far away courts will have an easier time getting their cases transferred to their home districts.

We look forward to working with local counsel in other jurisdictions to use TC Heartland to bring our clients’ cases home to California, and we are uniquely poised to assist with the increase of patent infringement litigation that’s expected. To read the U.S. Supreme Court case in full, click here.