When it comes to patent law in the US, there are some interesting issues. The biggest issue involves a disastrous change to who can file a patent in the recent past. The next biggest issue involves the fact that one US judge hears about a quarter of all patent cases. Clearly, that is the opposite of how this is supposed to work. Spreading out the cases over various human beings is how we prevent a handful of activist judges from changing the laws of the country.
Thanks to a series of appeals in the case of TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the issue of patent case venue has made its way to the US Supreme Court. After Kraft sued TC Heartland and a change of venue was denied, TC Heartland lost - twice. They then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that patent venue created a failed scenario for fair suits.
The company has been supported by 32 internet companies (PDF), the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge (PDF). The briefs have been in support of the hearing, saying that the current venue rules allow for "patent trolls" to rule supreme in the patent world.
The court was not particularly interested in hearing about "patent trolls," with even Justice Stephen Breyer, the most critical of the patent system, questioning the relevance of the briefs speaking of trolls. He said,
While the lawyers spoke a lot about patent trolls (non-practicing entities), Texas and Delaware, none of those issues are the cause of anyone's turmoil. Unfortunately, no one is discussing the fact that the patent office routinely grants patents that are incredibly vague. Those are the patents that NPEs go after, and those are the ones that get tried in Texas, which would move to Delaware if TC Heartland's motion is granted, not solving anything.
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