Supreme Court Ruling Should Spell the End of Apple’s Patent Troll Battles in East Texas [Updated]

The Supreme Court of the United States today decided that U.S. companies may only face patent infringement lawsuits in the jurisdiction in which they are incorporated, which in Apple's case would be California.


The decision is significant for Apple, as the iPhone maker faces several patent infringement lawsuits in a single district court in Eastern Texas that is considered friendly to patent holding entities, or so-called "patent trolls."

That very court in Tyler, Texas has, for example, ordered Apple to pay $532.9 million to patent licensing firm Smartflash LLC in 2015, and $22.1 million to Acacia Research last September for infringing upon patents it acquired from Nokia.

By limiting where patent infringement lawsuits can be filed, the Supreme Court's decision means that Apple will likely be able to battle patent infringement lawsuits in Northern California, and finally put East Texas behind it.

The Supreme Court's decision today relates to a Delaware-based lawsuit between Heartland Food Products Group and The Kraft Heinz Company, but it extends to all domestic companies across the United States.

Update: The appears to be considerable confusion throughout media coverage of this ruling. The ruling narrowly limited a company's "residence" to the place of incorporation, but patent lawsuits may still be filed anywhere "the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business." As a result, it appears patent lawsuits can still be filed against Apple in many jurisdictions, including the Eastern District of Texas.


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Apple Loses Labor Code Violation and Wireless Patent Lawsuits

A federal jury for the U.S. District Court for Northern California today found Apple to be infringing upon a pair of wireless patents owned by Core Wireless, a patent holding firm with a large portfolio of more than 1,200 patents and applications, originally filed and later acquired from phone maker Nokia.

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Core Wireless was awarded $7.3 million in damages as part of the ruling, which Apple is likely to appeal. In its complaint, Core Wireless argued iPhones and iPads infringe upon its patented wireless technologies, related to the GSM/GPRS, UMTS, and LTE standards, according to court documents filed electronically.

Meanwhile, Apple lost another lawsuit this week when a San Diego Superior Court jury reached a verdict in favor of a group of former Apple Store retail employees, who accused the company of failing to provide timely meal and rest breaks, wages due upon ending employment within the required time, and accurate wage statements.

California Labor Code dictates that employees must be provided with at least a 30-minute meal break when the work period is more than five hours, and at least a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. The defendants claimed Apple failed to always provide these breaks for at least four years prior to the lawsuit.

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The lawsuit, originally filed in 2011 and elevated to class action status in 2014, involves Apple retail and corporate employees who worked for Apple between 2007 and 2012. The trial was to continue this week for corporate employees, as the jury verdict only applies to retail employees, according to a tipster.

Apple is ordered to pay $2 million in the lawsuit. Apple can now appeal the case before a higher court.


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