Appeals court: East Texas can’t keep patent case because of one local salesman
Earlier this year, the US Supreme Court sharply limited where patent cases can be filed. For many tech companies that are regularly sued by the type of patent-licensing shops known as "patent trolls," the TC Heartland decision was welcome news. By limiting venue to places where defendants are incorporated or do business, TC Heartland was seen as an opportunity to shut down many lawsuits being brought in the Eastern District of Texas, a venue that has been historically attractive to so-called trolls and has a huge concentration of patent lawsuits.
Not long after TC Heartland, though, the East Texas judge who hears more patent cases than any other turned down a motion to transfer by supercomputer maker Cray Inc., which was sued for patent infringement by Raytheon in 2015. Lawyers for Cray argued that, under the provisions of TC Heartland, their client was entitled to have its case in a home venue. But US District Judge Rodney Gilstrap disagreed and said that Cray's ties to the district—a single salesperson, working out of his home—was enough to keep the case in the Eastern District.
Today, Gilstrap's decision was reversed by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which hears all patent appeals. In a 20-page decision (PDF), the three-judge panel directed the case against the Seattle-based tech company to be transferred.