In late 2016, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in TC Heartland, LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC,1 a case addressing the interpretation of the special patent venue and the general venue statutes. The case was brought by Heartland, a sweetener manufacturer organized as a limited liability company under Indiana law and headquartered in Indiana.2 In 2014, Kraft sued Heartland for infringement of three patents on liquid water enhancers. Although Kraft is headquartered in Illinois, the lawsuit was brought in the District of Delaware, where Heartland is not registered to do business and does not have a regular or established place of business.3 However, in 2013, some of Heartland’s accused products (representing approximately 2% of Heartland’s annual sales) were dropshipped to locations in Delaware at the request of an Arkansas-based customer.4 The court deemed this link sufficient to trigger personal jurisdiction in the patent lawsuit brought by Kraft.
A thinly construed nexus—chiefly through the sale of goods—is not uncommon in establishing personal jurisdiction for corporations in general,5 and in patent infringement cases in particular. For the past quarter of a century, the Federal Circuit has interpreted the patent venue statute6 permissively, enabling patentees to bring a lawsuit against a corporation in any district where personal jurisdiction arises.7 In the case of national companies like Heartland, this permissive approach allows patent infringement lawsuits to be brought anywhere in the United States where a modicum of sales may occur.8
Rutschman, Ana Santos, "Patent Venue Exceptionalism after TC Heartland v. Kraft" (2017). All Faculty Scholarship. 124.