Issue: Intellectual Property
Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Term: October 2016
Oral Argument: March 27, 2017
Vote: 8-0
Opinion: Justice Thomas
Lower Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Question Presented:
The patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b), provides that patent infringement actions "may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides .... " The statute governing "[v]enue generally," 28 U.S.C. § 1391, has long contained a subsection (c) that, where applicable, deems a corporate entity to reside in multiple judicial districts. In Fourco Glass Co. v. Transmirra Products Corp., 353 U.S. 222 (1957), this Court held that the phrase "where the defendant resides" in § 1400(b) "mean[s] the state of incorporation only." Id. at 226. 

Federal Circuit precedent holds to the contrary. Federal Circuit precedent holds that "the definition of corporate residence in the general venue statute, §1391(c), applie[s] to the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400" (App. 4a) and that "Fourco was not and is not the prevailing law" (App. Sa) on where venue is proper in patent infringement actions under § 1400(b).

The question in this case is thus precisely the same as the issue decided in Fourco:

Whether 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b) is the sole and exclusive provision governing venue in patent infringement actions and is not to be supplemented by 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c).

RLC Position: 
The RLC joined a brief to weigh in with the U.S. Supreme Court on the proper venue in alleged patent infringement cases. In the case below, the Federal Circuit interpreted the patent venue statute coextensively with the standard for personal jurisdiction, which allows plaintiffs to sue companies wherever they “do business.” The brief argues, however, that the patent venue statute placed narrow restrictions on venue in patent infringement cases and that these restrictions should be observed to prevent forum shopping. The brief asks the Court to reverse the Federal Circuit’s decision below.

Case Outcome:
The Court held that as applied to domestic corporations, “reside[nce]” in §1400(b) refers only to the State of incorporation. The amendments to §1391 did not modify the meaning of §1400(b) as interpreted by Fourco.


Procedural History and Case Documents: