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TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC

For Patent Venue Purposes, Domestic Corporations “Reside” Only in State of Incorporation

TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, (S. Ct. May 22, 2017) (THOMAS, J. (joined by Roberts, CJ, and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan, JJ) (Fed. Cir.: MOORE, Linn, Wallach) (D. Del.: Stark) (5 of 5 stars)

Supreme Court reverses Fed Cir’s denial of a writ of mandamus (821 F.3d 1338) concerning venue in a patent infringement case. The Fed Cir erred in reasoning that TC Heartland, alleged to be an Indiana corporation, “resided” in Delaware for venue purposes. Per Fourco, 353 U.S. 222 (1957), the word “reside[nce]” in the patent venue statute (28 U.S.C. § 1400(b)), as applied to a domestic corporation, refers only to the state of incorporation. The opinion rejects Kraft’s argument that, through post-Fourco amendments to the general venue statute (28 U.S.C. § 1391), Congress had altered the meaning of § 1400(b).

The opinion describes, and rejects, the Federal Circuit’s rationale for reaching the opposite result. The amendments to § 1391 stated that for “all venue purposes,” a corporation would “reside” in any judicial district where it was subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction. VE Holding, 917 F.2d 1574 (Fed. Cir. 1990), held that this amendment re-defined venue for all other venue statutes in the same chapter, which included the patent venue statute. VE Holding was the principal basis for the Federal Circuit’s opinion in TC Heartland. Today’s opinion overrules VE Holding, reverses the denial of the writ of mandamus, and remands for further proceedings.

Justice Gorsuch did not participate.

KEYWORDS: VENUE; STATE OF INCORPORATION; RESIDENCE; CIVIL PROCEDURE; TC HEARTLAND LLC; KRAFT FOODS GROUP BRANDS LLC