Jurisdiction for general patent issues
A fundamental principle imbedded in the United States Constitution is that all federal courts, except the Supreme Court, are established by Congress and possess only the jurisdiction granted to them by Congress.
According to 28 USC 1338: The federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all suits related to patent “law.”
But note the wording. Not all disputes involving patents are actually articulated in US patent law, which deals exclusively with patent creation and infringement. Other patent-related disputes – such as contractual issues, tortuous wrongdoings, and other matters – are the proper jurisdiction of state courts.
In some cases, the way the case is framed can determine which court system has jurisdiction. As an example, say a patent holder alleges that a license holder exceeded the terms of the license. The case can be framed as contract matter (to be heard in state court), or an infringement matter (to be adjudicated in federal court). The Supreme Court has long held that it is up to the plaintiff to determine the type of remedy he or she will seek.
Plaintiff’s, however, are generally not permitted to file suit for a case in one jurisdiction and later reframe the issue to file suit in another.
The 94 US federal judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits. Each circuit has a United States Court of appeals. Appeals from the district Courts of Appeal are filed at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was created by Congress in 1982 when the US Court of Customs and Patent Appeals merged with the US Court of Claims. It became an appellate court with the power to hear appeals based on subject matter rather than taking appeals from specific geographic areas.
The Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as patent infringement cases, and its decisions set binding precedent among the federal districts. Only the U.S. Supreme Court, or a change in the statutory law, can overturn decisions of the Federal Circuit. Parties wishing to appeal a Federal Circuit decision, must appeal to the US Supreme Court.
About Our Firm
Protecting your intellectual property rights is a complex business. If you suspect that your product might have been infringed, it may be advisable to rely on the expertise of an experienced IP rights lawyer to protect your rights. The Intellectual Property team at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is headed by Attorney Tara J. Williams, a patent attorney with more than 20 years of legal experience. The firm also has a unique contingency based Intellectual Property Department for certain infringement matters. The department’s goal is to assist small-business owners, artists and inventors to protect their creative endeavors when they may not otherwise have the resources necessary to do so. Call 1-866-760-4047, for a free, confidential review of your potential claim – or simply complete the contact form on the side of this page.