A patent gives the patent owner the right to exclude others from using the invention. If another person or company makes, uses, sells, offers for sale the invention claimed in the patent, that other person or company is said to be infringing on the patent rights of the patent owner. The patent owner in such a situation may wish to have the infringing conduct stop or may wish to receive compensation for the infringing conduct. Because the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has neither jurisdiction over a patent once it issues nor can they enforce any rights with regard to patent, the patent owner may sue the infringer in court. As a defense, the non-patent owner may wish to challenge the validity of the patent issued by the USPTO.
Under federal law, federal district courts have exclusive jurisdiction over all lawsuits “arising under any Act of Congress relating to patents.” Not all cases involving patents arise under the patent statute, however. Thus, depending upon the exact nature of the dispute, certain cases involving patent questions may be brought in state courts. For example, a lawsuit alleging the breach of a contract that involved a determination of the validity of a patent would be properly brought in a state court because contracts are governed by state law and the question of the validity of the patent is considered a side issue to the main question of whether a contract was breached.
Someone bringing a patent infringement suit must also choose the proper venue, the geographical area in which to file the suit. The patent venue statute provides that a patent infringement action may be brought in the federal court in which the alleged infringer resides or where the alleged infringer has committed the alleged acts of infringement. If the alleged infringer is a foreign company or individual, an infringement lawsuit may be brought in any federal district court.
In patent cases brought in federal district courts, the unsuccessful party may appeal the decision of the district court to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which may then be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.