The patent venue statute plays a significant role in determining where patent infringement lawsuits can be brought.
Because this legal provision has far-reaching implications for both patent holders who are trying to protect their intellectual property (IP) rights and defendants named in IP lawsuits, it’s important to understand some basics.
The patent venue statute controls where infringement lawsuits can be filed
“Venue” refers to where a lawsuit can be filed. Unless a case is filed in the appropriate legal jurisdiction, it can’t be heard. If it were, any ruling would be unenforceable. Venue requirements have always aimed to strike a balance between both parties’ interests – in this case, the rights of patent holders to enforce their IP rights and the rights of defendants to be tried in a fair and reasonably convenient forum.
In 2017, there was a notable shift in the patent venue statute thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC. In its decision, the Court clarified the interpretation of the patent venue statute, limiting the venues in which patent lawsuits can be filed.
The effects of the Supreme Court decision
Prior to that ruling, plaintiffs in patent cases could sue wherever the defendant had a “regular and established place of business.” Since 2017, that’s been narrowly construed to be the state where the defendant company is incorporated, effectively restricting the broad range of venues that had previously been used. This was designed to eliminate “forum shopping” by plaintiffs who were hoping to file in a jurisdiction that was known to favor patent holders.
The change has largely been frustrating to many who say that the special patent venue rule – which is unlike the venue rules for other civil claims – no longer makes sense in a world where globalization and e-commerce exist. They feel it puts an unfair burden on the plaintiffs. The pushback may eventually lead to new legislative changes and court decisions that could reshape the legal framework around patent disputes.
Patent law is extremely complex. When you have any kind of issue or question regarding patent law, experienced legal guidance is essential.