It would seem that state law would have no place in most patent disputes. In many cases, however, a myriad of state-law claims can be used against a patent owner in a suit for declaratory judgment as well as against defendants in patent-infringement suits. This article will outline the intersection of state law with the traditionally federal domain of patent infringement. The patent litigator should be wary of ignoring potential state-law declaratory judgment claims and potential counterclaims under state law and the Lanham Act. This article gives a brief overview of the Texas tort-law claims for tortious interference with existing contractual relations and unfair competition. Not discussed in this article are additional state-law claims that may be pled, depending on the facts, such as tortious interference with prospective contractual relations, business disparagement, and trade libel.
Personal Jurisdiction over State-Law Claims
Although patent infringement is a uniquely federal claim, the prudent patent litigator cannot ignore the myriad of state-law causes of action that may be used to a litigant's advantage in a patent-infringement dispute. As a general rule, these state-law claims will be heard by a federal court under jurisdiction that is supplemental to the federal-question jurisdiction conferred by the issue of a patent infringement or validity. In some cases, federal courts, however, may exercise original and exclusive jurisdiction over such state-law causes of action even if a patent claim arising under 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a) (2012) is not yet ripe for adjudication. Oddly enough, in these instances, it is actually the state-law claims that provide entry to the federal courts.