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February 2011

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Pilot Program to Enhance Expertise in Patent Cases

Legislation just signed into law by the President will start a decade-long pilot program in which some district courts will be given an opportunity to enhance their expertise in handling patent cases.

H.R. 628, now Pub. L. No. 11-349, was introduced by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) with cosponsors Representatives Howard Coble (R-NC), Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), and Adam B. Schiff (D-CA). The Judicial Conference did not take a position on the legislation.

Issa drafted the legislation with his colleague, Schiff, “in an attempt to decrease the cost of litigation by increasing the success of district court judges.”

Under the pilot program, those district judges who request to hear patent cases are designated by the chief judge to hear them. Patent cases filed in participating district courts are first randomly assigned to all district judges, regardless of whether they have been designated to hear such cases. A judge who is randomly assigned a patent case and is not among the designated judges may decline to accept the case. That case is then randomly assigned to one of the district judges designated to hear patent cases. Senior judges of a district court may participate if at least one judge of the court in regular active service is also designated.

District judges who request to hear patent cases are designated by the chief judge to hear them.

“I partnered with Mr. Issa on the bill (H.R. 628),” Schiff said, “because we share a deep interest in improving the efficiency of the patent process, in reducing litigation costs and inefficiencies in patent review, and also in improving the quality of patents.” The current law, he explained, grew from a hearing in the 109th Congress on improving federal court adjudication of patent cases in response to high rates of reversal—and where serious concerns were expressed about proposals that would create new specialized courts.”

The new law, Schiff said, would preserve the principle of random assignment in order to prevent forum shopping among the pilot districts.

Co-sponsor Johnson said that the program will “create a cadre of judges who gain advanced knowledge of patent and plant variety protection through more intensified experience in handling the cases, along with special education and career development opportunities.”

Courts eligible to participate in the program are the 15 district courts in which the largest number of patent and plant variety protection cases were filed in calendar year 2010, or the district courts that have adopted, or certified the intention to adopt, local rules for patent and plant variety protection cases. From among the eligible courts, the Director of the Administrative Office will select three district courts having at least 10 authorized district judgeships in which at least three judges have made a request to hear patent cases, and three district courts having fewer than 10 authorized district judgeships in which at least two judges have made a request to hear patent cases.

The pilot will run for 10 years after the courts in the pilot program are designated. During that time, periodic reports will be made to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.