US Supreme Court rules that patent infringement lawsuits may only be filed in a US district where a defendant is either (a) incorporated or (b) has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.
Case: TC HEARTLAND LLC v. KRAFT FOODS GROUP BRANDS LLC.
The patent venue statute, 28 U. S. C. §1400(b), provides that “[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.” In Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U. S. 222, 226, this Court concluded that for purposes of §1400(b) a domestic corporation “resides” only in its State of incorporation, rejecting the argument that §1400(b) incorporates the broader definition of corporate “residence” contained in the general venue statute, 28 U. S. C. §1391(c). Congress has not amended §1400(b) since Fourco, but it has twice amended §1391, which now provides that, “[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law” and “[f]or all 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.” §§1391(a), (c). Respondent filed a patent infringement suit in the District Court for the District of Delaware against petitioner, a competitor that is organized under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana but ships the allegedly infringing products into Delaware. Petitioner moved to transfer venue to a District Court in Indiana, claiming that venue was improper in Delaware. Citing Fourco, petitioner argued that it did not “resid[e]” in Delaware and had no “regular and established place of business” in Delaware under §1400(b). The District Court rejected these arguments. The Federal Circuit denied a petition for a writ of mandamus, concluding that §1391(c) supplies the definition of “resides” in §1400(b). The Federal Circuit reasoned that because petitioner resided in Delaware under §1391(c), it also resided there under §1400(b).
Held: As applied to domestic corporations, “reside[nce]” in §1400(b) refers only to the State of incorporation. The amendments to §1391 did not modify the meaning of §1400(b) as interpreted by Fourco. Pp. 3– 10. (a) The venue provision of the Judiciary Act of 1789 covered patent cases as well as other civil suits. Stonite Products Co. v. Melvin Lloyd Co., 315 U. S. 561, 563. In 1897, Congress enacted a patent specific venue statute. This new statute (§1400(b)’s predecessor) permitted suit in the district of which the defendant was an “inhabitant” or in which the defendant both maintained a “regular and established place of business” and committed an act of infringement. 29 Stat. 695. A corporation at that time was understood to “inhabit” only the State of incorporation. This Court addressed the scope of §1400(b)’s predecessor in Stonite, concluding that it constituted “the exclusive provision controlling venue in patent infringement proceedings” and thus was not supplemented or modified by the general venue provisions. 315 U. S., at 563.
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