The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods, a case that effectively asks the court to decide whether patent owners can sue in practically any corner of the country. EFF supported TC Heartland, the petitioner, at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and as well in asking the Supreme Court to hear the case. The petition to the Supreme Court became necessary after the Federal Circuit issued a disappointing decision that maintained the status quo.
The current law allows patent owners to pick and choose between federal courts, often opting for courts that are perceived to have rules and procedures favorable to their position. The result has been astounding. Last year, almost 45% of all cases were filed in the Eastern District of Texas, a relatively rural part of the country that has no major technology industry.
When patent owners can drag defendants into court in far-flung corners of the country it can cause significant harm, especially for those who are on the receiving end of a frivolous lawsuit. Patent owners can pick a forum that is less inclined to grant fees, keep costs down, or stay cases. As a result, oftentimes it is cheaper to settle even a frivolous case than to fight.
We’re glad to see that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear this important case that could significantly curtail some of the worst actors in the patent game. EFF will be there to urge the Court to restore balance and fairness in patent litigation.