U.S. Supreme Court Limits Where Patent Infringement Defendants Can be SuedMay 22, 2017

In TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the locations that patent infringement suits can be brought against a defendant, i.e., venue for the lawsuit.  Proper venue is established by 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) as the place where (1) the defendant resides or (2) where the defendant has committed the acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.  For U.S. business entities, the place of residence had been broadly interpreted pursuant to another federal statute (28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)) to jurisdictions other than where the company is incorporated but anywhere it is subject to personal jurisdiction.  This allowed companies to be sued for patent infringement where they have sold or shipped products.  The Supreme Court’s holding inTC Heartland, has limited the defendant’s residence to the state where the Defendant is incorporated.


In TC Heartland, Kraft Foods Group Brand sued TC Heartland for patent infringement in the District of Delaware on the basis that TC Heartland had sold infringing products in Delaware.  TC Heartland is a company organized in Indiana with its business operations in Indiana as well.  It asserted that Delaware was the wrong venue for the patent infringement lawsuit.  Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous (8-0) decision (recently confirmed Justice Gorsuch did not take part in consideration of the case) and held, “As applied to domestic corporations, ‘reside[nce]’ in § 1400(b) refers only to the State of incorporation.”  However, it should be noted that U.S. business entities can still be sued in a jurisdiction where infringement has occurred and where the defendant has a regular and established place of business.

Jonathan Kennedy is an Intellectual Property Attorney in the Biotechnology/Chemical Patent Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information please visit www.ipmvs.com or contact Jonathan directly via email at jonathan.kennedy@ipmvs.com.


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