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June 2011

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


District Courts Selected for Patent Pilot Program

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The number of patent cases filed in federal courts increased 18 percent in 2010 over the previous 12-month period.

Fourteen federal district courts have been selected to participate in a 10-year pilot project designed to enhance expertise in patent cases among U.S. district judges. The pilot, mandated by Pub. L. No. 111-349, begins in most selected courts in July.

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 Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) the intention to adopt local rules for patent and plant variety protection cases.

From among the eligible courts who volunteered for the pilot, the Director was required by statute to 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 patent pilot project courts are the:

  • Eastern District of New York
  • Southern District of New York
  • Western District of Pennsylvania
  • District of New Jersey
  • District of Maryland
  • Eastern District of Texas
  • Northern District of Texas
  • Western District of Tennessee
  • Northern District of Illinois
  • District of Nevada
  • Central District of California
  • Northern District of California
  • Southern District of California
  • Southern District of Florida

In the pilot program, patent cases filed in participating district courts are initially 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.

The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management will help implement the pilot. The Committee is encouraging the pilot courts in the project to use their case assignment system to ensure fairness in the distribution of the court’s workload and provide for the assignments of additional civil cases to those judges who decline patent cases.

The Federal Judicial Center (FJC), the research arm of the federal Judiciary, is creating a special webpage to assist the patent pilot courts with sample patent case local rules and forms, and FJC patent law publications and case management materials for patent cases. It also plans to provide specialized patent law and case management training for the pilot courts, resources permitting. Under the statute, the AO and the FJC will submit periodic reports to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees over the course of the pilot, with the first report due mid-way through the pilot.