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Why Texas may have lost its status as a hotbed of game patent lawsuits

Why Texas may have lost its status as a hotbed of game patent lawsuits

May 24, 2017 | By Alex Wawro

This week the Supreme Court issued a ruling on a patent fight over powdered drink mixes that puts new limits on where patent holders can file infringement lawsuits, potentially changing the landscape of patent fights in the game industry.

Specifically, the Electronic Frontier Foundation highlights how the Supremes' recent ruling (on "TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Food Brands LLC") mandates patent owners only sue corporate defendants "in districts where the defendant is incorporated or has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business."

That means it's now much harder for patent-holders to go "venue shopping" and file their lawsuit in a court they feel is more likely to side with them.

Devs who have been reading Gamasutra for some time will probably recognize the current top court pick for patent lawsuits: The Eastern District of Texas, which has made cameos in everything from a 2005 Konami patent fight over Roxor's rhythm game In the Groove to a 2007 patent troll's lawsuit against Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo over joystick ports to Lodsys' lengthy patent fight over in-app purchases in iOS games.

In 2013, Ars Technica reported that the Eastern District was the #1 district in the U.S. in terms of patent lawsuits filed, in part because such lawsuits were much more likely to go trial by jury than in other regions (which reportedly raises the risks and costs for defendants.)

Going forward, the EFF -- a nonprofit that has long argued the current U.S. patent system is broken -- suggests that this week's ruling will weaken "patent trolls" and drive more patent fights to Delaware, a state where many companies are incorporated due to its corporation-friendly tax laws.

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