US Supreme Court – 2017 – Stay Tuned

February 17, 2017

The US Supreme Court will decide numerous intellectual property cases in the 2017 term. Here is a brief overview of three of them.

TC HARTLAND V. KRAFT

The TC Hartland case addresses where patent infringement lawsuits can be litigated. Patent infringement lawsuits can be brought where infringement occurs and the defendant has a regular and established place of business, or where the defendant resides. Currently, in patent litigations, corporations reside in judicial districts where they are incorporated and judicial districts that have personal jurisdiction of the corporation, for example, where the corporation does business. This gives plaintiffs in patent cases a lot of options for where to litigate, allowing instances of forum shopping to be in courts with fast “rocket dockets” or in those with local rules that are perceived to be patentee/plaintiff friendly. The Supreme Court will use the TC Harland case to clarify whether corporate residence for patent litigations should be limited to where a corporation is incorporated, which would limit where at least some patent litigations could happen.

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SCA HYGIENE V. FIRST QUALITY

The SCA Hygiene case addresses laches defenses in patent litigations. The issue is whether, and to what extent, laches can bar infringement claims that are within the six-year statute of limitations for bringing patent infringement actions. The current rule is that laches may be used to bar patent infringement claims within the six-year statute of limitations period. However, for copyright infringements, the Supreme Court recently held that laches cannot be used to shorten a recovery period within copyright’s three-year statute of limitations. The Supreme Court will use the SCA Hygiene case to clarify whether its copyright laches decision should be applied to patent situations.

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LIFE TECHNOLOGIES V. PROMEGA

The Life Technologies case addresses patent infringement based on exporting a component of a patented system for foreign assembly. Patent infringement in the US includes exporting all, or a substantial portion, of the components of a patented invention and actively inducing their combination outside of the US in a manner that would infringe a US patent had it happened here. The Supreme Court will use the Life Technologies case to clarify whether exporting a single commodity component of a multicomponent invention for assembly of the invention outside of the US is an infringement.

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