CPIP Scholars Ask Supreme Court to Resist Call to Restrict Venue Choices for Patent Owners

On March 8, 2017, CPIP Scholars Adam Mossoff, Devlin Hartline, Chris Holman, Sean O’Connor, Kristen Osenga, & Mark Schultz joined an amicus brief in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods. CPIP Scholars worked with USD Law’s Ted Sichelman to organize, write, and file the brief. The case focuses on whether patent owners may sue corporate defendants in any judicial district where the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant, which is the default rule in federal cases.

Concerned about the allegedly abusive behavior of certain firms suing in the Eastern District of Texas, some would like to severely restrict where all patent owners may sue. The amici note that, even if the Supreme Court restricts venue choices as these people would like, patent lawsuits would not be equitably distributed as a result. A recent study showed that 60% of all patent cases would still be concentrated in 5 of the 94 judicial districts. Furthermore, instead of concentrating in one district—the Eastern District of Texas—cases would primarily concentrate in two districts—the Northern District of California and the District of Delaware.

As the amici argue: “No plausible argument can be made—and Petitioner and its amici have not offered an argument—that shifting cases from one district to two districts would result in a meaningful distribution of patent cases among the ninety-four federal district courts.” The amici note that concerns about “forum shopping” are overblown since patentees are just doing what all federal plaintiffs do—choosing “the forum that gives it the best opportunity for success.” Since “corporate defendants are generally subject in any civil complaint to venue in any district in which personal jurisdiction lies,” the amici suggest that the same rule should apply in patent cases.

The amici conclude: “Innovators and their investors have long been vital to a flourishing innovation economy in the United States. Startups, venture capitalists, individual inventors, universities, and established companies often rely heavily on patents to recoup their extensive investments in both research & development and commercialization. By restricting the districts in which a patent owner can bring suit, the value of the patent itself is lessened, diminishing the economic incentives the patent system provides to spur innovation.”

To read the amicus brief, please click here.

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