In an 8-0 decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, No. 16-341, the U.S. Supreme Court placed tighter limits on where a patent owner may file a suit for patent infringement by holding that “a domestic corporation ‘resides’ only in its State of incorporation for purposes of the patent venue statute.” The Court’s decision reverses Federal Circuit precedent that allowed a patent owner to file suit anywhere a defendant made sales.
In TC Heartland LLC, Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC (“Kraft Foods”) brought a patent infringement suit against flavored drink mix maker TC Heartland LLC (“TC Heartland”) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. TC Heartland, organized under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana, moved to transfer venue to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, arguing that under the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), it did not “resid[e]” in Delaware and had no “regular and established place of business” in Delaware. TC Heartland based its arguments on the Supreme Court’s decision in Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222, 226 (1957), where the Court concluded that for purposes of § 1400(b) a domestic corporation “resides” only in its State of incorporation.
Startups are increasingly vulnerable to demand letters and lawsuits from “patent trolls” looking for opportunities to extract quick settlements from small companies with limited resources to defend against claims of patent infringement. To protect your business, developing a thoughtful approach for responding to such non-practicing entities is essential. Here are 5 tips for moving forward:
1. Don’t Panic. When confronted with a patent demand letter or infringement lawsuit from a non-practicing entity, it is perfectly understandable to be upset. You have likely invested substantial sums of money into your business and/or product, and now feel that the investment is under attack. Maintaining your calm, however, will better enable you to think clearly and strategically about next steps.
Here are 10 ways to build a rock-solid foundation for your new company and avoid constructing a masterpiece on top of quicksand:
- Make sure your company’s name isn’t already taken. As a starting point, search the name on Google and other Internet search engines. Then search the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov). Important: repeat this process each time you pick the name of a new product or service.
- Check if the domain name you want is available – if so, get it. Create Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts for your company, and start using them. (more…)