District court judges interested in developing expertise in patent litigation will have a new opportunity under legislation headed to President Barack Obama’s desk.
The House gave final approval Thursday night to a proposal to establish a pilot project in at least six district courts where judges will be able to opt in to the new program to hear patent cases.
“Prior to coming to Congress, I was part of a number of patent suits. I was often struck by the fact that many district court judges either knew little of the applicable law, or did not understand the technology involved,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sponsored the legislation. “Patent litigation often costs litigants over $10 million and can inject crippling uncertainty into a business. This legislation launches a 10-year program to support efforts of courts to help businesses and individual inventors who patent ideas.”
The pilot program would steer patent cases to judges who have the desire and aptitude to hear patent cases, but keep random assignment of judges to help avoid forum shopping. If a judge opts into the new program and a patent case is randomly assigned to that judge, that judge keeps the case, according to the bill. When a case is randomly assigned to a judge in a district with the pilot program who has not opted to hear patent cases, that judge either may keep the case or refer it to the group of judges who have opted into the program. The legislation states that the pilot project will last no longer than 10 years, and requires studies to determine its success.
“Obtaining and protecting intellectual property rights is increasingly becoming a strategic necessity for individuals and businesses throughout the nation,” said Schiff in a statement. “This important legislation will raise the level of expertise in patent litigation, improve the reliability of patents, and allow businesses to spend more time inventing and less time litigating, which could reduce the cost to consumers on everything from promising new medicines to the latest cell phones.”