In a brief, well-reasoned opinion, a unanimous eight-member Supreme Court held that 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) is a stand-alone provision governing venue in patent infringement suits, unaffected by the broad definition of “residence” in the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391.Rather, a domestic corporation “resides” in only its state of incorporation. TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, No. 16-341 (U.S. May 22, 2017).
The Court based its decision on the history of the general venue statute and the patent venue statute and its own consistent interpretation of the patent venue statute. Reviewing that history, the Court observed that Congress created the patent venue statute as the exclusive provision for patent infringement suits, at least against domestic corporations, with little change from its initial creation as an exception to the more frequently amended general venue statute.
Thus, in 1789, Congress in all cases permitted suit in a district if the defendant was “an inhabitant” of the district or could be “found” there. Slip op. at 3 (citing Act of Sept. 24, 1789, § 11, 1 Stat. 79). Congress amended that statute in 1887 to restrict venue to a district where the defendant was an inhabitant or, in diversity cases, where either party was an inhabitant. Slip op. at 3-4 (citing Act of Mar. 3, 1887, § 1, 24 Stat. 552). But a Supreme Court decision in 1893 created confusion about whether the 1887 Act, rather than the 1789 Act, applied to patent cases. Congress enacted the first patent venue statute in 1897 to eliminate the confusion. Slip op. at 4 (citing Act of Mar. 3, 1897, ch. 395, 29 Stat. 695). Continue Reading