With over 500 stores all over the world, Apple's opening or closing plans for individual stores are usually not remarkable, but the company appears to have an unusual motive behind the closure of two locations in East Texas: Separate business contacts near a court often favored by patent trolls.
According to MacRumors, Apple announced this week that they will close two stores in the Dallas area – Apple Stonebriar and Apple Willow Bend – planning to open a new store called Apple Galleria Dallas soon after. The Willow Bend store was primarily Apple's first in Texas, and just recently rebuilt, reopening with Apple's latest retail design in September 201
During the recent US federal court rulings, closing the Stonebriar and Willow Bend stores could keep Apple outside the jurisdiction of a federal court in the Eastern District of Texas, which patents have used to win big judgments against major technology companies. Currently, the law provides that Apple cannot be sued for patent infringement outside its California home business, except where it maintains a "regular and established place of business."
Changing these stores from the East District to Texas to a mere miles away is expected to modestly only some employees and customers, while eliminating the court's ability to try Apple patent cases – provided there are no other Apple offices in the jurisdiction of the court. Apple has invested heavily in Texas over the past few decades, and recently committed to $ 1 billion in a North Austin campus located in the western Texas district.
In recent years, claims and decisions on Apple patent infringement have been in East District Court. Earlier this year, the company was ordered to pay $ 440 million to the detriment of a patent holder named VirnetX for violations in FaceTime, and the company has fought lawsuits there over step count (Uniloc), iTunes (Smartflash) and streaming technology (Dynamic Data Technologies) to name some, and sometimes face $ 500 million worth of dignity.
Although not every single case has gone against Apple, it's easy to understand why the company will avoid risking half a billion dollars every time it gets sued. An IP search company advised Apple in mid-2017 to assess the earnings of individual retailers, suggesting that it was unnecessarily exposed to unfavorable courts outside its home state.