By Thomas Dunlap, Partner, Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig

Litigants facing patent infringement often avail themselves of the Multidistrict Litigation or MDL process. MDL allows large, related patent proceedings to be consolidated into one action for pretrial purposes. A single judge can thus conduct the critical pretrial process, including discovery and pre-trial motions. With the pretrial proceedings complete, the cases can then be moved back to their original jurisdictions. MDL may become even more common and helpful to patent owners in light of the recent Supreme Court case of TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC.

Benefits of MDL

Multi-district litigation is authorized under 28 U.S.C. § 1407. MDL was created with the intent to simplify and make litigation more convenient for the parties and witnesses to the action, as well as judicial efficiency. Whether multiple actions will be consolidated to MDL proceedings is determined by a panel of circuit and district court judges.

Patent holders that wish to have multiple actions consolidated should file a motion to transfer proceedings to MDL, or the MDL panel can initiate the process. In order to be eligible for transfer, the patent owner or the defendant must show that the different actions have one or more common questions of fact or law; the transfer will be convenient for the parties and witnesses; the transfer will promote efficiency.

If accepted for transfer to MDL, the MDL panel will consider several factors to determine the appropriate forum. The panel will consider the location of documents and witnesses, where the majority of the actions are filed, and the site of the conduct giving rise to litigation, among other factors. With the forum selected, the cases can then proceed as one through the pretrial process.

TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC

In the Supreme Court case of TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC, the high court issued an important ruling. The court held that patent infringement actions may only be filed in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or alternatively where the defendant committed the alleged infringement and has a regular place of business. Previously, patent owners could file anywhere the infringer was subject to personal jurisdiction.

TC Heartland will likely require patent owners to bring actions in multiple jurisdictions in order to enforce their rights. Multi-district litigation could, therefore, become more common as patent owners seek to consolidate their actions. Contact a patent attorney for more assistance with your potential patent infringement case.


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Posted in: Intellectual Property - Patents

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