At the beginning of the 2010, President Obama signed into law a 10-year patent pilot program, separate from the American Invents Act, designed to enhance the expertise of district court judges in handling patent cases. Pursuant to the law, the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts has selected 14 district courts to participate in the program, including all four districts in California, and the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York.
Pursuant to the program, certain judges within each selected district court will be designated to hear patent cases. The designated judges are to be provided with additional resources including funding for clerks specializing in patents, as well as training regarding patent cases. Under the program, when a new patent case is filed, it will be assigned randomly to any judge in a district. But if the randomly assigned judge is not a designated patent judge, he or she may decline to accept the case, and it will be reassigned to one of the designated judges. While the stated goal of the program is not to create “specialized” patent courts within a jurisdiction, it is likely to have such an effect. It has been my experience as a patent litigator that many federal judges do not like to preside over patent cases for a variety of reasons. This program gives federal judges the ability to opt-out and it is certainly more than possible that some federal judges will do so. Intended or not, this will likely lead to a few judges hearing a lot of patent cases.
The program is likely to have an impact in the following areas: (1) Time to Resolution. (2) Quality and Predictability of Rulings; (3) Less Cost and Greater Frequency; and (4) Increased Filings.
Periodic reports will be generated by the Director of the program and will include information such as: the rate of reversal by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit of patent cases on issues of claim construction and substantive patent law; and the time period from the case filing date to the trial date or the date on which summary judgment is entered.
The court selected to participate in this program are:
Eastern District of New York
Southern District of New York
Western District of Pennsylvania
District of New Jersey
District of Maryland
Northern District of Illinois
Southern District of Florida
Western District of Tennessee
Northern District of Texas
Eastern District of Texas
District of Nevada
Northern District of California
Central District of California
Southern District of California
The Northern District of California is holding a conference on its pilot program on January 18, 2012 at Stanford Law School (click here for more information). Judge Rader of the Federal Circuit will be the keynote speaker and Judges Davila, Ware and Koh, all of whom have been designated to participate in the program, will also be speakers.
Please provide any information or experience you may have with this important patent litigation development.