California has long been the center of the nation’s tech industry. Many, if not most of the industry’s leading companies are headquartered here in Silicon Valley, including Mountain View. Given this situation, some casual observers may be surprised to see that so many patent litigation lawsuits are filed in Texas courts.
There could be several valid reasons for choosing Texas as a venue for patent litigation. After all, tech companies do a lot of business in that state. Still, some tech industry people and legal professionals cite a less reputable reason: venue shopping. Some feel that plaintiffs choose to file their legal actions in far-flung places in an effort to find a more sympathetic court.
This was the background behind a recent court decision to move a patent infringement lawsuit from Texas to California. The case involves the Santa Barbara-based smart-speaker maker Sonos and the Mountain view-based tech giant Google. Sonos has filed several suits against Google, claiming the company had infringed its patents for multi-room audio systems. Sonos has filed some of these actions in California, and some have involved legal disputes in other countries. In one case, the U.S. International Trade Commission made a preliminary finding in favor of Sonos. In the recent case, Sonos filed suit last year in West Texas.
Google argued that the West Texas court was the wrong venue for the dispute, and took its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Recently, the appeals court agreed with Google, finding that the “center of gravity” of the case was in Northern California, and so should be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The appeals court made similar rulings in several other recent patent disputes. Some observers say these moves signify a crackdown on venue shopping, which could have profound consequences for patent disputes in the months and years ahead.