Nearly three decades ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the Washington D.C.-based patent court, issued a landmark ruling concerning where patent cases may be filed by plaintiffs. Specifically, the 1990 decision held that such suits could be filed anywhere a named defendant has even a minor sales presence.
While the decision had relatively little impact in the ensuing years, this has changed over the last decade owing to the emergence of so-called patent trolls, meaning those companies or individuals that don't actually provide a product or service, but rather generate revenue by suing over any and all perceived patent infringements.
Compounding this problem has been the aforementioned 1990 Federal Circuit decision, as it enables these patent trolls to engage in "forum shopping." In other words, they selectively file lawsuits in those jurisdictions where judges and juries have a reputation for being sympathetic to plaintiffs in patent disputes.
To illustrate, experts have found that a disproportionate amount of patent litigation has centered in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas with at least one federal judge seated there receiving roughly 25 percent of all patent cases filed from 2014 to 2016. To put this in perspective, this was more cases than were assigned to all federal judges in New York, Florida and California combined.
This reality, needless to say, has long been a source of contention for major corporations, particularly tech giants like Samsung, Google and Apple, all of whom have been hit with some manner of patent lawsuit -- including several filed in the Eastern District of Texas.
Interestingly enough, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a major decision earlier this week in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands that is already being cheered by corporations for potentially helping address this longstanding issue.
We'll examine TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands in our next post ...
If you have questions or concerns relating to intellectual property, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can provide answers and pursue solutions.