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Texas in the Rearview Mirror? Glory Days Could be Numbered in the Country's Busiest Patent Court


The Eastern District of Texas knows patents. Its judges have presided over thousands of these highly technical cases. Many potential jurors there have at least one patent trial under their belt. If they haven’t sat through one themselves, they’ve probably had friends, family members or neighbors who have.

But a high-profile venue fight at the Supreme Court threatens to shatter East Texas’ long-standing dominion. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments Monday in a case that could limit where patent suits can be filed. At issue is a Federal Circuit rule that effectively allows patent suits to be filed in any district where the defendant makes sales. The plaintiff, TC Heartland LLC, contends the rule has paved the way for patent holders to seek out favorable courts and fueled a plague of forum-shopping.

All types of plaintiffs — not just NPEs — have been taking advantage of patent law’s broad venue rules, and companies like to be in a court before a jury composed of members who live in places where they’ve built up goodwill. But if TC Heartland wins, their ability to file on their home turf would be limited.

“If you’re a plaintiff and you want to file in your own backyard because you’re a practicing entity and your headquarters are there and the defendant is selling infringing products there, you won’t be able to file there,” said Eugene Paige, a partner at Keker Van Nest & Peters LLP. “You would need to file where the defendant is incorporated or has a regular and established place of business.”

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