Salvaging the Law of Patent Value: Brunette, TC Heartland, and the Venue Clarification Act

In TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle that no part of the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1391, could supplement the patent venue statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). Yet, in Brunette Machine Works v. Kockum Industries, the Court nevertheless held that former § 1391(d), which allowed suits against aliens in any district, applied in patent cases because aliens simply lacked all venue defenses. But then, in 2011, Congress passed the Venue Clarification Act, amending § 1391 to affirmatively give a venue defense to permanent resident aliens.

This entangled trifecta of venue law sources leaves open several important questions about the current state of patent venue: Does Brunette contravene TC Heartland? Does the Venue Clarification Act overrule Brunette? Does TC Heartland forbid applying the Venue Clarification Act to patent suits? This Comment reconciles these sources of law and extricates them from their current mire. Ultimately, this Comment argues that Brunette and TC Heartland do not conflict, that Brunette must be tweaked to accommodate the Venue Clarification Act, and that select provisions of the Venue Clarification Act do, in fact, apply to the patent venue statute.

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