According to the Eastern District of Texas, no. In our continued post-TC Heartland coverage, for the purpose of establishing venue, courts typically will decline to treat the place of business of one corporation as the place of the business of the other, even when the two are related, so long as a formal separation of entities is preserved.
Tony is an Associate in the firm’s Boston office. He has worked with a wide range of technologies including manufacturing, telecommunications, and software development.
Tony’s experience includes assisting in the preparation of patent applications and pre-suit diligence, including patent portfolio analysis; drafting infringement/non-infringement and validity/invalidity analyses; and providing technical and scientific advice to legal practitioners in ITC-337 investigations and US District Court matters. During law school, Tony served as the production editor of the Journal of Health & Biomedical Law.
According to a recent decision from the Southern District of New York, no. In our continued post-TC Heartland coverage, the court in CDX Diagnostic, Inc. v. U.S. Endoscopy Group, Inc. clarified that a storage unit does not qualify as a regular and established place of business. Specifically, retrieving materials from a storage unit does not qualify as actually engaging in business activity. While a storage unit is of course a physical place in the district, the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden to prove that the defendant engaged in any business in or from the storage unit.
In another interesting development in our ongoing coverage of the application of the TC Heartland patent venue standard by lower courts, the District Court for the Western District of Texas recently determined that when a parent company ratifies its subsidiary company’s place of business, it can be considered a “regular place of business” for purposes of establishing proper venue. In Board of Regents, The University of Texas System, and Tissugen, Inc.v. Medtronic PLC, Medtronic, Inc., and Tyrx, Inc., Cause No. A-17-CV-0942-LY (May 17, 2018 W.D. TX), it was undisputed that neither defendant was incorporated in the Western District of Texas. As such, the Court looked to whether either business maintained a regular and established business within the district, and concluded that Medtronic did.
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.
Further to our ongoing coverage of post-TC Heartland patent litigation, in a recent case in the Western District of Wisconsin, the court granted defendants’ motion to transfer for improper venue. In doing so, it rejected the plaintiff’s contention that venue can be proper where one corporation “works closely” with another corporation resident in the jurisdiction.
In Unity Opto Technology Co. Ltd. v. Lowe’s Home Centers LLC and LG Sourcing, Inc., 18-cv-27-jdp (W.D. Wis.) (May 4, 2018), co-defendant Lowe’s Home Centers has a place of business in the district, namely a physical store located in Plover, Wisconsin. However, co-defendant LG Sourcing does not own, lease, maintain, or operate any facilities in the district, nor does LG Sourcing employ any residents that reside in the district either.
The Federal Circuit recently overturned a decision estopping the plaintiff from pursuing its infringement claims in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and clarified the effect of reexamination on equitable estoppel and laches. In John Bean Technologies Corporation v. Morris & Associates, Inc., the Federal Circuit held that District Court abused its discretion applying equitable estoppel to bar John Bean Technologies Corp.’s (“John Bean”) infringement action without considering the impact of an intervening ex parte reexamination on the claims of the asserted patent.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two important patent law opinions that relate to the inter partes review procedure introduced by the America Invents Act: Oil States Energy Servs., LLC v. Greene’s Energy Grp., LLC, which upholds the constitutionality of inter partes review, and SAS Institute, Inc. v. Iancu, which requires the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to adjudicate the validity all patent claims challenged in a petition for inter partes review if the Board decides to adjudicate the validity of any claim challenged in that petition. Yesterday, the PTO issued a memo describing how pending trials will be conducted and how new petitions will be addressed in light of SAS Institute, but important questions remain.
Further to our ongoing coverage of post-TC Heartland patent litigation, in a recent development from the Northern District of Illinois, the court granted counterclaim defendants’ motion to dismiss for improper venue. In Shure Incorporated v. ClearOne, Inc., 1-17-cv-03078 (ILND March 16, 2018, Order), the court was blunt in dismissing the plaintiff’s argument regarding the applicability of purported “ancillary” venue. Plaintiff argued that the doctrine of ancillary venue, where parties are added in conjunction with a compulsory counterclaim are within the court’s supplemental jurisdiction, does not require an independent basis for venue. The court disagreed, and did not mince words: “[t]his argument is rejected. ClearOne cites no authority for the proposition that the doctrine of ancillary venue (whatever that really is) can override the clear terms of the patent venue statute.”
In properly assessing venue, the court analyzed whether venue was proper under the first part of 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), which permits a patent infringement action to be brought in the judicial district where the defendant “resides.” Here, the court dismissed counterclaim defendants’ because both defendants lacked a regular and established place of business in the district. One defendant was incorporated in Delaware, and the other was based out of California. The court determined that neither company could be deemed to “reside” in the Northern District of Illinois.
In Drop Stop LLC v. Jian Qing Zhu et al, 2-16-cv-07916 (CACD January 22, 2018), the Central District of California granted Plaintiff’s motion to award attorney fees due to Defendants’ exceptional litigation tactics under 35 U.S.C. § 285. Initially, counsel for Plaintiff sent a cease and desist email to Defendants to stop selling an infringing product, and attached a draft claim chart in support of its infringement position. The claim chart included a disclaimer stating “PLEASE NOTE – this informal opinion cannot be relied upon definitively. A formal opinion is required, and that involves extensive study and other efforts to provide a reliable outcome. Please call me to discuss.” However, four days later, Defendants re-listed the accused products and sent Plaintiff an email attaching Plaintiff’s draft claim chart without the disclaimer. Defendants relied upon Plaintiff’s claim chart to support its non-infringement positions despite not having performed any analysis of their own, and entirely dismissing Plaintiff’s disclaimer, which expressly disclaimed any formal legal opinion.
In a recent development from the Eastern District of Texas, Magistrate Judge Roy S. Payne concluded that defendants Globalfoundries, Qualcomm, and Samsung waited too long prior to moving to dismiss or transfer the case due to improper venue (see report and recommendation here). KAIST IP US LLC filed its complaint back in November 2016, and a significant portion of discovery already occurred. Similar to In re Micron (which we previously covered here), defendants reserved the right to challenge venue pending the decision in TC Heartland, in their respective answers to the complaint. However, it was not until September 2017, about four months after the decision in TC Heartland issued, that defendant Globalfoundries affirmatively challenged venue. Qualcomm and Samsung filed similar motions a month later. The defendants argued that “after lengthy negotiations… it become clear that KAIST did not have a legitimate, good faith interest in an agreed transfer to a proper venue.”
MJ Payne disagreed, largely because the parties were already immersed in claim construction briefing. MJ Payne opined that “[g]ranting such untimely motions at this stage of the proceeding would disrupt the efficiency of the judicial process, both here and in the proposed transferee district.” Further, MJ Payne was perplexed as to why defendants sat on their hands for four to five months after the TC Heartland decision to move. Accordingly, the court denied defendants motions to dismiss or transfer venue citing In re Micron (affirming a district court’s ability to find forfeiture when a party does not raise a timely objection to venue). We will continue to track any developments regarding this matter.