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Federal Circuit clarifies that patent venue is proper only in a single judicial district within a multi-district state

In our continuing coverage of the post-TC Heartland landscape, the Federal Circuit recently clarified that venue is proper in only one district per state in In re BigCommerce, Inc., 2018-122 (Fed. Cir. May 15, 2018) (slip op.).  Last year, the Supreme Court held in TC Heartland that a company resides where it is incorporated.  Among the many unresolved questions flowing from that decision involved the treatment of patent venue in states with multiple districts.  Specifically, no appellate court had determined whether a domestic corporation incorporated in a multi-district state “resides” only in the single judicial district where it maintains a principal place of business or registered office, or whether venue could be proper in all judicial districts within that state.

The Federal Circuit answered this question and determined that, for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), a company “resides” in only one district in a state with multiple districts.

In this case, Plaintiffs Diem LLC and Express Mobile, Inc. each filed separate patent infringement suits against BigCommerce in the Eastern District of Texas.  BigCommerce is incorporated in Texas and lists its registered office and headquarters as located in Austin, Texas. However, the parties all agreed that BigCommerce has no place of business in the Eastern District. On these facts, the Federal Circuit relied on the plain language of § 1400(b), which states:

Any civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.

(Emphasis added).  The court noted that a plain-language reading of “the judicial district” speaks to venue in only one particular judicial district in a multi-district state.  In particular, the term “the judicial district” is singular, which indicates that venue must be in a single district, not in all districts.  Accordingly, the Federal Circuit concluded that for states having multiple judicial districts, a corporate defendant shall be considered to “reside” only in the single judicial district within that state where it maintains a principal place of business or a registered office.  Given the clear language of the statute, this result was not surprising—but it provides litigants welcome clarity on yet another previously unresolved question in the wake of TC Heartland.

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Andrew H. DeVoogd is a patent litigator and trial attorney whose practice encompasses a wide range of technologies. He represents major technology companies in International Trade Commission investigations, and shares his insights on Mintz's IP Viewpoints.

Anthony Faillaci