TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC

SCOTUS Docket No. 16-341

May 22, 2017

Brief Summary: SCOTUS held “that a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute” (28 USC §1400(b)) and not as defined by the broader definition provided by the general venue statute (28 USC §1391(a)).

Summary: Under 28 USC §1400(b), “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” It is noted that §1400(b) is a descendant of the 1897 patent specific venue statute (Stonite, US 1942) and specifically applies to “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement”. The general venue statute (28 USC §1391(a),(c)) “provides that, ‘[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law’ and ‘for venue purposes,’ a corporation ‘shall be deemed to reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question.” The question here was whether the Federal Circuit correctly “reasoned that because” the petitioner, organized under Indiana law and residing in Indiana, “resided in Delaware under §1391(c)” (the general venue statute), “it also resided there under §1400(b)” (the patent venue statute). This opinion explained that under its Fourco decision (US 1957), “for the purposes of §1400(b) a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation”, rejecting the argument that “the broader definition of corporate ‘residence’ contained in the general venue statute” (§1391(c)) is incorporated into the patent infringement-specific §1400(b). Thus, §1391(c) does not “allow a plaintiff to bring a patent infringement lawsuit against a corporation in any district in which the corporation is subject to personal jurisdiction” (e.g., “‘minimum contacts’ with the forum state” (such as doing business in that state) “such that maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” (Int. Shoe, US 1945) (provided for reference here but not cited in this opinion, but see NexLearn (FC 2017)). Thus, SCOTUS held “that a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute.” FN1 notes that the Court’s analysis is “confine[d]…to the proper for corporations”, explaining that “while this case comes to us at the pleading stage and has been litigated on the understanding that petitioner is a corporation”, there may be a dispute regarding whether the petitioner is in an “unincorporated entity”.

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