Supreme Court Issues Major Ruling Regarding Patent Infringement Cases

The Supreme Court made it more difficult for companies to sue for patent infringement in “sympathetic” courts.

On Monday, the Justices’ unanimously affirmed a prior ruling of the Court. That ruling stated patent lawsuits should be filed in the judicial district where the alleged offender is incorporated. The decision reverses a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Under the Federal Circuit ruling, patent lawsuits could be filed wherever a company had minimal sales of its products. As a result, nearly half of the lawsuits were being filed in the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall. In that district, cases move quickly and the court is seen as sympathetic to plaintiffs.

Justice Clarence Thomas said that subsequent actions by Congress and other courts had not altered the Supreme Court’s 1957 decision. A lawsuit alleging patent infringement must be filed where the defendant “resides,” and a corporation resides only in its state of incorporation.

Paul Cronin, an intellectual property specialist in Boston, said the decision will represent a “seismic shift”. He stated it will “deal a severe blow to non-practicing entities or ‘patent trolls,’ and shifts home court advantage to companies accused of patent infringement.”


The case before the Court was TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands.

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