In their landmark decision on May 22nd, the Supreme Court decided 8-0 in favor of TC Heartland over Kraft Foods Group, changing the dynamics of patent litigation across the country. In the case itself, Kraft sued TC Heartland, claiming that TC Heartland had infringed on Kraft’s patent for the low-calorie water sweetener, MiO. The Court held that the defendant could only be sued in the state in which it was incorporated. Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property held a hearing on the impact of the TC Heartland decision, and heard testimony that although the TC Heartland decision is helpful, it is not a panacea for litigation abuse.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the long-running Samsung v. Apple design patent litigation and took special note of the technology industry’s concerns. The Court was reviewing a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit holding that someone found to infringe a design patent could be liable for all of the profits made from the infringing product, even if the reason that consumers bought the product was in substantial part because of its functionality. (We wrote previously about that here. The reason for the lower court’s holding stemmed from the language of 35 U.S.C. 279, which says, in relevant part (emphasis added):