Today, the Supreme Court delivered a blow to patent trolls by unanimously reversing the Federal Circuit’s decision in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC. The high court ruled that defendants in patent cases can only be sued where they are incorporated or have a regular and established place of business. The decision will make it significantly harder for patent trolls to file lawsuits in jurisdictions that patent-friendly but otherwise unrelated to the claims at issue—most notably the Eastern District of Texas, where almost forty percent of patent cases were filed last year.
The following statement can be attributed to Engine Policy Director, Rachel Wolbers:
“The Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland is another important step to preventing abusive patent litigation tactics that disproportionately impact startups. Today’s decision will ensure that defendants are not hauled to unfriendly and distant districts where the cost of defending against lawsuits is often prohibitive, leading to abusive and extortive settlements that diminish investment and startup activity. The high court has confirmed that Congress intended to limit where defendants in patent cases can properly be sued and has delivered a needed check on the still-persistent trolls that stymie the entrepreneurship nationwide.
“While this ruling is a significant victory in the in the fight against patent trolls, Congress must continue to work to protect startups from abusive patent litigation. Congress should look to enact reforms to the patent litigation process, including promoting meaningful fee shifting, curbing deceptive demand letters, and protecting consumers impacted by patent litigation. Additionally, Congress should resist any attempts to weaken the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s ability to weed out low-quality patents. We are thankful for today’s ruling, but know there is much more work to be done.”