Apple closes two Apple stores in the northern suburbs of Dallas in an apparent bid to avert litigation from patent trolls. The stores are in the East district of Texas, a federal court jurisdiction infamous for its kindness to patent holders. As Joe Rossignol on MacRumors points out, closing the two stores will make it easier for Apple to resist being dragged into the Eastern District court case.
Apple confirmed the closures in a statement to TechCrunch, although the company did not say whether the move was patent related.
The Eastern District breaks north of Dallas, which covers Dallas suburbs such as Plano and Frisco. Apple is currently running two stores north of Dallas that fall into the Eastern District: Apple Willow Bend and Apple Stonebriar.
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The move follows a landmark 2017 High Court ruling that tightened up rules against forum trading in patent cases. The Eastern District is renowned for its extremely patented judges, and for decades patent attorneys have established a shop there and sued defendants across the country. Prior to 2017, the law allowed a plaintiff based in the Eastern District of Texas to sue the defendant there if the defendant even had tough relations with the district. And of course, a company with Apple's size has business ties to all parts of the country.
But during the Supreme Court 2017 TC Heartland decision, a defendant can only be sued in a district where it "lives" – believes where it was incorporated – or "has a firm and established place of business."
Apple's two stores in the Eastern District are likely to count as "permanent and established businesses" for patent law. So under the new rules, the operation of the stores continues to make it easier for patent litigation to sue Apple in the Eastern District. Fortunately for Apple, these stores are pretty close to the Eastern District border. And then, Apple has apparently determined it's worth asking the company's North Dallas customers to drive a little further to get their iPhones repaired.