Dec 14 The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday
agreed to decide whether to limit where patent lawsuits may be
filed, potentially threatening a years-long trend that critics
say allows frequent and often-baseless litigants to sue in
courts friendly to them.
The justices said they will hear an appeal by beverage
flavoring company TC Heartland LLC to have a patent infringement
suit brought against it by food company Kraft Heinz Co
moved from federal court in Delaware, where it was filed, to
Heartland's home base in Indiana. TC Heartland is challenging a
lower court ruling denying a transfer to Indiana.
The dispute has been closely watched by high technology
businesses, which are the frequent targets of companies that
generate revenue by suing over patents instead of making
products, sometimes called "patent trolls."
Critics say certain judicial districts, especially the
federal court in Eastern Texas, have procedures and rulings that
favor patent trolls. Though far from any high-tech center, more
than 40 percent of all patent cases were filed there last year.
A decision by the high court in favor of TC Heartland could
curtail lawsuits in East Texas even though the case did not
Pittsburgh-based Kraft, which makes the MiO brand of liquid
water enhancers, sued in Delaware in 2014 alleging that TC
Heartland's Refreshe-branded liquid enhancers infringed three of
TC Heartland, a subsidiary of Heartland Consumer Products
Holdings, argued that it has no presence in Delaware and 98
percent of its sales are outside of that state. The court denied
a transfer to Indiana. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit in Washington upheld that ruling last April.
TC Heartland urged the Supreme Court to take the case,
saying the appeals court's precedent on where suits may be filed
has "produced a plague of forum shopping."
The court will hear the case and issue a ruling by the end
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)