Supreme Court case may drastically impact Michigan patent cases

A U.S. Supreme Court case could lead to an influx of patent cases coming back to Michigan.

The United States Supreme Court could soon rule on a case that could ultimately have a major effect on how patent cases are handled in Michigan. As the New York Times reports, the case, involving TC Heartland and Kraft Food Group Brands, could impose new restrictions on where patent cases can be filed. If the court rules against the practice of what is commonly referred to as "forum shopping" then it could mean a significant increase in the number of patent cases being filed in Michigan.

Pros and cons of forum shopping

A 1990 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit allowed patent cases to be filed essentially anywhere the defendant in the case does business. That has led to the unusual situation where a federal court in East Texas, which has a reputation for being friendly to plaintiffs in patent cases and for conducting proceedings quickly, has ended up hearing a substantial portion of the country's patent cases. In fact, about a quarter of all U.S. patent cases in recent years have been heard by a single judge in Marshall, Texas, despite the area being home to relatively few of the defendants involved in those cases.

Critics of this situation say it is bad for business. They point out that having to conduct patent cases in East Texas means defendants need to invest additional resources into having their case heard outside of their own state. For example, even if the defendant is not incorporated or headquartered in Texas, they still need to find a local attorney for their case. While some supporters of forum shopping say it allows certain courts to gain expertise in patent disputes, others, notably in the technology sector, say it means that rural jurors with little knowledge of complex industries are being asked to decide intellectual property issues that affect those industries.

How it impacts Michigan businesses

If the country's top court decides to impose new restrictions on where patent cases can be heard, such as specifying that such cases may only be heard where the defendant is incorporated or headquartered, then it would have a major impact on Michigan-based businesses.

As Crain's Detroit Business points out, the impact would probably be most noticeably felt by Michigan's automotive industry. About 10 percent of patent cases involve the automotive industry, with many of those cases being heard in East Texas. If those cases began to be heard in Michigan it would allow defendants to rely on local attorneys as well as jurors who are more likely to be familiar with the issues affecting automotive companies.

Intellectual property law

As the above article shows, intellectual property law is constantly evolving. Businesses need to know that their intellectual property rights are being protected and the best way of doing that is by relying on an intellectual property law firm. An experienced law firm can help businesses and individuals with their various intellectual property needs, including protecting patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets.