A recent decision in a patent infringement case involving John Deere suing both AGCO Corporation and its subsidiary, Precision Planting LLC, in the District of Delaware illustrates that not all answers from the Supreme Court's 2017 decision of TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Grp. Brands LLC are clear. The TC Heartland decision included, in part, that "A patent infringement case "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). Under § 1400(b), a domestic corporation "resides" only in its state of incorporation.TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Grp. Brands LLC, 137 S. Ct. 1514, 1521 (2017).
In the Deere v. ACGO/Precision Planting case, AGCO and Precision Planting moved to transfer the case from Delaware to the Central District of Illinois. While both AGCO and Precision Planting are incorporated in Delaware, Precision Planting is headquartered in Central Illinois, while AGCO is headquartered in Duluth, Georgia. AGCO does own another subsidiary, GSI, which has three facilities in the Central District of Illinois, but otherwise does not have its own locations in the District.
The court first noted that there was no question that Deere could have sued Precision Planting in Illinois, but held that there is a "real question" as to if Deere could have sued AGCO in the Central District of Illinois. Based upon the TC Heartland decision, along with other statutes, the court stated that AGCO "resides" only in Delaware, and would only transfer the case if there was no "real question" that AGCO has a "regular and established place of business" in the Central District of Illinois.
The analysis of a "regular and established place of business" relied upon the case ofIn re Cray Inc., 871 F.3d 1355, 1362 (Fed. Cir. 2017). The case states that there is no precise rule, but each case depends on its own facts. There are some statutory requirements, however. First, "[t]he statute requires a 'place."'Id. "The second requirement ... is that the place 'must be a regular and established place of business."'Id. "[T]he third requirement" is that the place must be "a place of the defendant." Id.at 1363 (emphasis in original).
In the Deere case, the issue at argument was whether GSI's locations in the Central District of Illinois, as a subsidiary owned by AGCO, constituted a "place" of AGCO. Cray did not discuss this consideration, and the court stated that it was not aware of the Supreme Court nor the Federal Circuit ruling on whether a defendant's subsidiary's "place of business" could be one that "the defendant has" for purposes of§ 1400(b). Therefore, this would be a question of first impression, which the court considered to be a "real question" about whether Deere could have sued AGCO in the Central District of Illinois. Accordingly, the motion to transfer was denied.
Therefore, while TC Heartland was instructive on where patent infringement lawsuits should be filed, there remains at least some questions, such as, is it the location of the parent, subsidiary, incorporation, or dependent upon the specific facts of a case that ultimately decide the location. These are important considerations to determine when deciding to file a lawsuit, and working with a Patent Attorney to get all of the information related to all parties is key so that a party filing the suit files in the proper jurisdiction.