Insider sources say Apple is shutting its east Texas stores to escape the jurisdiction of America's worst patent court

#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/23/residency-requirement.html

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#2

I’d be interested to know more about how this works (I’ll wait to read about it on Apple’s blog, lol). Presumably they’ll still be selling stuff online, providing iMessage service etc. to people in that zone; does this just protect them from patent trolling related to glass stairways and undetectable plain-clothes cashiers, or what?

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#3

As it says in the post:

As with so many other laws, the legal requirements here were written before the Internet. A website or internet service does not count unless the physical address from which those services are provided is located in the relevant jurisdiction. So as long as Apple does not have any data centres in the district, and they shutter their stores in the district, they cannot be sued there because they do not have a place of business there. They can be sued anywhere they have a place of business, either a store, an office, a data centre, what have you… this move is all about avoiding this one district where judges tend to side with patent holders even if the patent is totally bogus.

I wouldn’t be surprised if other companies (google, amazon, etc) are looking into moving their East Texas presence across the jurisdictional lines in order to avoid that district, if they haven’t already done so.

ETA: Google has already been bitten by a troll because they had servers in East Texas. I expect those servers either have been or will soon be relocated. See “Seven Networks LLC v. Google LLC”

ETA2: better writeup of the Seven Networks vs Google case: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=2c0e7aa6-c905-4bbb-86aa-ee7377b7c64e

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#4

It does sound like it’s only physical premises; but I have to admit that it would be sort of fascinating(if perhaps not so much for the locals) if the Eastern District were to turn into a weird little internet lacuna where everything feels like a sort of anachronistic, retrofuture, late-90s-but-with-a-few-modern-bits because everyone notable enough to be worth patent-trolling and sophisticated enough(which isn’t too sophisticated unless you really need to clamp down on edge cases) to block traffic by geographic origin won’t talk to them.

Things would get particularly dramatic if AWS and a few of the major CDNs were to pull the plug to avoid jurisdiction. “Travelling into The Silence? Be sure to stock up on ham radios and hard copies.”

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#5

I know that newegg has been sued in this east texas court. They are located in California.

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#6

I get the impression how this works is not very well, but better than nothing.

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#7

They could make it work very well indeed though. Apple stores get lots of traffic. Make very, very clear to those now ex-visitors why they’re closing those stores.

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#8

Super disappointed in this, because I live about 2 miles from the Willow Bend store. Instead of a 5 minute drive, it’ll be 15 minutes to the Galleria. And good luck trying to find a parking spot any time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I understand their reasons, but it’s all about me, right?
Actually the area around Stonebriar is the big growth area of DFW, where all the money and business is going. From a retail standpoint it’s a poor decision. Also odd that they just did a big renovation of the Willow Bend store a year ago, and now they’re closing it. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

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#9

Or things change over time, and the half a billion dollar decision from last April pushed them to come up with a way to deal with it.

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#10

In 2017, the Supreme Court changed the rules. Before then, you could file suit anywhere the defendant did business (ie, any place they have customers). Everybody filed suit in East Texas because the judicial culture there was extremely friendly to patent holders. Now, you have to file suit where the company you are suing is incorporated. (eta: or where the company has a permanent, real-world presence, such as a store. Here’s an article that explicates the new regime for determining where suits can be filed. https://www.krcl.com/articles/patently-unpredictable-patent-venue-laws-after-tc-heartland-in-re-cray/ )

Which makes me wonder about this news reporting vis a vis Apple closing stores - because the below article states specifically that attempts to define having stores or personnel in a location as equal to a company’s residing in that location have been struck down. Looks like as of 2017, Apple can only be sued for patent infringement in California, where they are incorporated. So, the alleged reason to close stores in East Texas doesn’t hold water.

@doctorow, how about it, is Wikipedia wrong on this or is the article you linked to incorrect?

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#12

is that the real Shane, or it only a placeholder implying the existence of some resemblance, somewhere?

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#13

Does anyone have a decent map showing the cities within this district? All I’ve find is overlays of the state of Texas, no cities.

#14

the obvious long term solution to this sort of problem, a kml file, would likely infringe on a dormant patent.

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#15

The Eastern District comprises the counties of Anderson, Angelina, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Collin, Cook, Delta, Denton, Fannin, Franklin, Grayson, Gregg, Hardin, Harrison, Henderson, Hopkins, Houston, Jasper, Jefferson, Lamar, Liberty, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Newton, Orange, Panola, Polk, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Smith, Titus, Trinity, Tyler, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood.

https://www.usmarshals.gov/district/tx-e/general/area.htm

I had a devil of a time finding simple GeoJSON and KML boundary files for US counties and states. Eventually I realized that I could get shapefiles from the United States Census Cartographic Boundary Files and convert them to GeoJSON and KML formats using the MyGeoData vector converter.

http://eric.clst.org/tech/usgeojson/

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#16

I feel bad for the store employees who lost their jobs - don’t feel bad for anyone that has to drive 15 minutes instead of five, that’s just not worth complaining about.

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#17

Interesting to see whether other types of patent-exposed industries follow suit - auto and farm equipment manufacturers, chemical plants, etc.

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#18

Apple will be fine. It’s not like the Galleria in Dallas is that far away from Plano or Frisco.

#19

Elsewhere in the article it mentioned that Apple offered spots in the new store to the employees of the two being closed.

#20

But they’ll always be ten minutes late. Unfair!

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