Supreme Court Will Hear A Case That Could Finally Shut Down East Texas As The Patent Troll Mecca
from the smack-that-cafc dept
Last year, we wrote about an important patent case concerning the common practice of patent trolls going forum shopping. We’ve been writing about how patent trolls have been flocking to East Texas for ten years now, and little has changed. In fact, as we noted last year, there’s one judge in East Texas, Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who famously handled 20% of all patent cases filed in the country in 2014. One judge. And that’s not all the patent cases that come into that court. The towns of Marshall, Texas, and Tyler, Texas, have built a giant industry out of being super friendly to patent trolls. And it’s ridiculous. But there’s a case that could put an end to it and the Supreme Court has thankfully agreed to hear it. The case is called In Re: TC Heartland, and — somewhat ironically — it is not about a case filed in East Texas, but rather in the second favorite patent troll destination: Delaware (which has become more friendly to patent trolls over the last few years — apparently trying to compete with East Texas for the “business.”)
The underlying issue in the case is whether or not a 1990 ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) in the VE Holding v. Johnson Gas case basically threw open the floodgates on jurisdiction shopping for patent plaintiffs. This ruling was ridiculous on multiple levels, not the least of which was because one of the driving forces in setting up a centralized appeals court (CAFC) to hear all patent cases was to stop jurisdiction shopping that was happening in the patent space, where patent holders were rushing to favorable courts in favorable circuits. And, yes, the end result has been significantly worse forum shopping than anything that existed prior to CAFC’s existence. And when CAFC got a chance to review this bad decision in hearing the TC Heartland case earlier this year… it didn’t. It left the earlier rule standing.
The good news, of course, is that when the Supreme Court agrees to hear a patent case these days, it almost always means that CAFC is about to get spanked for being ridiculously bad at its main job of properly interpreting patent law. So hopefully things are lining up to see another SCOTUS smackdown of CAFC… and with that smack, an end to East Texas (or any particular jurisdiction) as a patent troll haven.