Top technology companies are no strangers to patent litigation. Wherever there is money to be made there will always be opportunistic individuals and companies who will obtain patents in order to profit from licensing or litigation. Yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled on a key change that should make it much harder for patent trolls to be successful.
The decision itself relates to a legal tussle between ketchup maker Kraft Heinz Co and a smaller firm named TC Heartland LLC. In this case, Kraft Heinz filed a patent suit in Delaware before Heartland fought to move proceedings to Indiana, arguing that it had no presence in Delaware. After the US Court of Appeals turned down the request last year, the US Supreme Court was called to intervene and ruled that patent suits must be filed in the location that the recipient company is incorporated.
This has important implications for future suits, and particularly those involving Silicon Valley firms. Patent trolls are known to file their suits in friendly courts with a reputation for favoring plaintiffs bringing the action, and the vast majority of those end up being filed in Texas. According to a Stanford Law School journal, 40% of all patent lawsuits are filed in East Texas and 90% of those are brought by patent trolls. The new ruling will make that a thing of the past, as suits will now have to be filed against firms in their local courts. Where before you could essentially choose your court, proceedings should now be more impartial.
This is great news for frequent targets such as Google, Samsung, Apple, and Microsoft, who have long been calling for legislation to shield them against patent trolls. Congress has been largely unhelpful, but this new ruling should aid their cause and perhaps pave the way for future rulings that might also offer them more protection.