Did TC Heartland change much?
The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided a high profile case defining where patent cases can be filed: TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, No. 16-341 (S. Ct. May 22, 2017).In the 8-0 decision, Justice Thomas explained that the venue statute controlling patent cases is distinct from the general venue statutes. Venue in patent cases is controlled by 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), which 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.” 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) (emphasis added). The Court held that “where the defendant resides” means the State in which the defendant is incorporated.
The meaning of “regular and established place of business” is not yet concrete and will be fleshed out by district courts in the coming years. This new law definitely curtails the prior venue law, which allowed cases to be filed wherever accused products were sold. But will the new law be as dramatic of a change as the media has played out to be? In this day and age – where most companies have many offices in many different states – this author believes the change will be minimal. But only time will tell.