A congressionally-created pilot program to give district court judges greater expertise in patent cases will begin next month in most of 14 selected courts.
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) announced this week which district courts will be participating in the 10-year project. To be eligible to participate, courts had to be among the 15 district courts in which the largest number of patent and plant variety protections cases were filed in 2010, or be district courts that adopted or certified to the director of the AOUSC their intention to adopt local rules for patent and plant variety protection cases.
The law establishing the project required the AOUSC director to choose three district courts, from among those volunteering, that have at least 10 authorized district judgeships in which at least three judges made a request to hear patent cases, and three district courts having fewer than 10 authorized district judgeships in which at least two judges made a request to hear patent cases.
The 14 selected courts are: Eastern and Southern Districts of New York; Western District of Pennsylvania; the Districts of New Jersey, Maryland, and Nevada; Northern District of Illinois; Southern District of Florida; Eastern and Northern Districts of Texas; Western District of Tennessee, and the Central, Northern and Southern Districts of California.
Patent cases filed in those 14 courts initially will be assigned randomly to all district judges, regardless of whether they have been designated to hear those cases. But an assigned judge who is not among the designated judges may decline to accept the case and the case will be randomly assigned to one of the designated judges, according to the AOUSC. The random assignment is designed to avoid forum shopping.
The Committee on Court Administration and Case Management of the Judicial Conference of the U.S. (the policymaking arm of the federal courts) will help to implement the pilot program. And the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal courts, is creating a special webpage to help the pilot courts with sample patent case local rules and forms, patent law publications and case management materials.
The statute requires the AOUSC and the Center to submit periodic reports to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, with the first due mid-way through the pilot.
When Congress gave final approval to the project last December, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) sponsored the legislation, said, “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. 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.”