Apple recently announced its closing some of its stores in north Texas. It’s not doing this because the stores are unprofitable, or they need more space. They’re closing the stores, the story goes, because they happen to sit in the Eastern District of Texas.
Why should it matter what federal district an electronics store happens to be located in?
It turns out the Eastern District of Texas has historically been very favorable to patent litigants. More specifically, patent trolls flocked to Marshall, Texas to file suites against large tech companies like Apple. Federal law historically allowed litigants to file lawsuits in any district where the defendant “Has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business”. Since Apple had stores in the district, Patent Trolls could file suite there.
Recent court decisions have made it more difficult for litigants to choose courts (a fact that has the town of Marshall worried) but to better insulate itself from these lawsuits, Apple has decided to move their stores over imaginary lines so won’t get sued as much.
It all seems very strange, but it all goes to show that location matters.