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Fed. Circ. Refuses To Restrict Venue In Patent Cases

The Federal Circuit recently denied liquid sweetener company TC Heartland LLC’s request for new restrictions on where patent suits can be filed. TC Heartland was sued by Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC in the District of Delaware and was seeking to have the case moved to the Southern District of Indiana, where it is based.

TC Heartland’s petition for a writ of mandamus, which urged the court to cast aside a 1990 ruling that patent suits can be filed in any district where the defendant makes sales, was denied.

TC Heartland argued that the 1990 decision known as VE Holding was overruled by a 2011 federal law, and that under that statute, patent suits can be filed only in places where the defendant is incorporated or has an established place of business and has allegedly infringed. The Federal Circuit rejected that argument, calling it “utterly without merit or logic.”

“The 2011 amendments to the general venue statute relevant to this appeal were minor,” the court wrote, adding that the statute was in fact “a broadening of the applicability of the definition of corporate residence, not a narrowing. This change in no manner supports Heartland’s arguments.”

“Boy, doesn’t this feel like something a legislature should do rather than something we should be asked to do?” U.S. Circuit Judge Kimberly A. Moore said at oral arguments.

Although the case did not actually involve the Eastern District of Texas, where the most patent suits are filed, it has been closely watched because a decision restricting venue in the way TC Heartland requested would have kept most suits out of the district, since few patent defendants are based there.

According to statistics compiled by Law360, there were 2,523 new patent complaints filed in the Eastern District of Texas last year, accounting for 45.5 percent of all cases nationwide. The collection of small cities 100 miles east of Dallas saw nearly 2,000 more new suits than the next-busiest court, the District of Delaware.

For more information, see Law360.



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