The Supreme Court recently decided a case involving the patent venue statute 28 U. S. C. §1400(b). The case, TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, No. 16-341, concerned flavored drink mixes made by TC Heartland, which is based in Indiana. Kraft sued it claiming patent infringement in Delaware, which has a high concentration of patent suits.
TC Heartland sought to move the case to Indiana, but lower courts refused, relying on a 1990 decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized court that handles patent appeals. That decision said defendants in patent cases, as in other cases, may be sued in any court that has personal jurisdiction over them.
The question presented in this case is where proper venue lies for a patent infringement lawsuit brought against a domestic corporation. The patent venue statute, 28 U. S. C. §1400(b), provides that “[a]ny 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 Supreme Court held that §1400(b) does not incorporate the broad definition of corporate “residence” contained in the general venue statute, 28 U. S. C. §1391(c) and a domestic corporation “resides” only in its State of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute.
The effect of the case remains to be determined because the case has been remanded to determine if the Defendant’s motion to change venue to Indiana should be granted. However, the decision appears to be a victory for potential infringers and a loss for patent holders, which now face uncertainty as to whether they are able to file patent infringement suits in a federal district close to them.