TC Heartland and Alien Defendants

TC Heartland and Alien Defendants

Earlier this year, we caught up on the amended rules in the Eastern District of Texas. In that post, and for the year ahead, we included a refresh on the important venue case of TC Heartland.

In 2017, a federal appeals court disagreed with an Eastern District judge’s decision to rule against the defendant’s request for a change of venue, which he based on a single salesman working out of his home within the district on behalf of the Seattle-based company. The appeals court referred to the Supreme Court’s residency requirement in its TC Heartland decision.

Also in 2017 is a new case for discussion in this post:  3G Licensing, S.A. et al v. HTC Corporation. 3G Licensing had accused HTC Corp. (based in Taiwan) and HTC America (a subsidiary based in Washington State) of infringement.

As recently posted by Patently-O blogger and Law Professor at the University of Missouri School of Law Dennis Crouch, the District Court followed TC Heartland, finding that the venue was improper for HTC America, but it allowed the action to proceed against HTC Corp. The Taiwanese company responded by petitioning the Federal Circuit for a writ of mandamus on the issue, which was denied.

According to Crouch, this is an indication that a venue mandamus, which can be considered an extreme remedy, will no longer be granted “to avoid the inconvenience of litigation by having this issue decided at the outset of its case.” He adds:

“[T]he Federal Circuit went on to explain its position that the Delaware court is a proper venue for the foreign corporation.  Rather, according to the court, TC Heartland did nothing to disturb the ‘long-established rule that suits against aliens are wholly outside the operation of all the federal venue laws, general and special.’”

Referring to the Supreme Court’s case of Brunette Machine Works, Ltd. v. Kockum Industries, this means, says Crouch, that “the venue laws do not protect alien defendants.”

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