If you thought patent law in 2017 was boring, think again. The U.S. Supreme Court has made two major decisions that change where you can file litigation and how you can enforce patents
These decisions will affect the ability for both businesses and “patent trolls” to file litigation. Protecting your patents is a constantly evolving problem and staying aware of the changes will help you defend your intellectual property.
Patent trolls are companies and individuals who obtain patents with no intention of developing products. Rather, these trolls methodically sue companies across industries for infringing on their patents. They also force businesses to buy patent rights for extravagant prices or ask for prohibitive fees to settle cases. While patents are an important part of protecting your ideas and adding value to your business, patent trolls take advantage of this system.
Until recently, a patent holder could sue a company in any federal court across the country. This led to the filing of over 40 percent of all patent litigation cases in East Texas, where patent holders won nearly 80 percent of cases.
In TC Heartland vs. Kraft, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a plaintiff must file a patent lawsuit in the state where a defendant is incorporated or where they have a regular place of business. This decision weakens the ability of patent trolls to consistently file — and win — lawsuits in patent holder friendly courts.
The other major Supreme Court decision was in Impression Products v. Lexmark. Lexmark brought suit against Impression because they modified printer cartridges with patented microchips and imported cartridges across international borders.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Lexmark exhausted its patent rights in these cartridges the moment it sold them.” This decision means that once a consumer receives a patented product, the patent is “exhausted” and no longer enforceable. This decision could have major ramifications for people looking to protect their intellectual property.
These decisions may have lasting consequences on patent litigation and the ability of businesses to defend patents post-sale. With all of these changes, you should consider reaching out to a knowledgeable attorney to decide how to best protect your patents.