SCOTUSOn Monday March 27, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods, a case that has potentially vast implications on patent venue, a fundamental issue in the area of patent litigation. Currently, patentees can bring suit in any district court, even if they do not have a business presence in that district. Whether this practice should continue or be overturned is the crux of the issue heard at the Supreme Court.

In TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods, Heartland, which is based in Indiana, requested the initial suit be transferred to the District Court of Southern Indiana from the District Court of Delaware, but this request was denied. The Federal Circuit then rejected the request to transfer the case to a different venue. The question before the Supreme Court is not about patent claims or scope, but instead about venue. Should the Supreme Court overturn the Federal Circuit’s decision, the implications would surely be felt immediately.

The Eastern District of Texas is currently a center of patent litigation even though most companies do not conduct business in this district. If the Supreme Court overturns the Federal Circuit Court’s decision, there will likely be an immediate exodus of cases from the Court’s docket, although it is not entirely clear to which districts they will be redirected. This case also represents an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule on a patent-related case, possibly shedding light on where they stand in an area in which they have chosen to remain particularly quiet.

– Nicholas Vincent and Anthony D. Sabatelli, PhD, JD

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