By Laura Gorman, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
In the 1990 case of VE Holding v. Johnson Gas Appliance, the Federal Circuit held that due to a 1988 change by Congress in the general venue laws granting broader leeway over where a defendant can be sued, patent venue rules should be interpreted in light of the more general venue law, thus giving patent owners wide latitude to determine where a defendant “resides” for purposes of jurisdiction.
Fast forward some 27 years later to an appeal from Carmel-based food sweetener company TC Heartland LLC, who was sued by Kraft Foods in Delaware. While lower courts refused to transfer the case to Indiana, on May 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals, has been using the wrong standard to decide where a patent lawsuit can be brought. The justices ruled unanimously that such lawsuits can be filed only in states where defendants are incorporated, following the long standing strict venue rule for patent infringement cases, 28 U.S. Code § 1400(b). The issue is important to many companies that complained about patent owners choosing more favorable courts in other parts of the country to file lawsuits.
The full text of the case can be found here.
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