Forum Shopping and Patent Law: A Comment on TC Heartland
96 Tex. L. Rev. 141 (2017)
24 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 15, 2017
In TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, the Supreme Court altered more than twenty-five years of Federal Circuit precedent by narrowly construing the patent venue statute to limit residence-based venue for infringement suits against corporate defendants to the defendant’s place of incorporation. Although the case involved a technical issue of statutory interpretation, it directly implicated substantial questions of patent policy related to the concentration of case filings, patent trolls, and the efficacy of the patent system. Moreover, the Court’s decision risked potentially serious consequences to the economic health of communities in East Texas, especially the town of Marshall, Texas. Yet the Court’s unanimous opinion says nothing about any of these aspects and relies instead on a mostly textualist analysis of the venue statute. This is a surprising omission, especially as the potential effects of the decision are so significant and the statutory text offers so little guidance. This invited essay describes the broader patent context and the real world stakes, critically examines the Court’s textualist analysis, and offers possible reasons why even the more functionally and pragmatically oriented Justices on the Court might have been willing to join an opinion so focused on text and so inattentive to consequences and context.
Keywords: patent venue, TC Heartland, patent trolls, patent assertion entity, forum shopping, forum selling
JEL Classification: K11, K39, K40, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation