EFF asks appeals court to “shut down the Eastern District of Texas”

Two unidentified men leave the federal courthouse in Marshall, Texas, in 2008. (Photo by Mario Villafuerte/Bloomberg via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge have asked a federal appeals court to make big changes to the rules governing venue in patent cases. The two public interest groups are seeking to file an amicus brief (PDF) which attacks the Eastern District of Texas as being one of the “most notorious situations of forum shopping in recent history.”

The opportunity came up in a case where an Indiana company called TC Heartland was sued by Kraft Foods for infringing three Kraft patents on “liquid water enhancers.” Kraft sued TC Heartland in Delaware; TC Heartland asked the judge for a transfer to Indiana, but was shot down. It has appealed the venue decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles all patent appeals.

The EFF and Public Knowledge are hoping to add their voices to TC Heartland’s case to highlight the role of the Eastern District of Texas, which has been a desirable venue for patent-holders for more than a decade now. It’s been especially hospitable ground for non-practicing entities or “patent trolls,” shell companies that just exist to hold patents and file lawsuits.

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