Congress revives US patent pilot legislation

On January 22, 2009, Congress re-started its efforts to improve patent litigation by introducing legislation that would designate certain courts and experienced judges to hear patent cases at the district court level. 

The new bill, introduced as S. 299 by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and H.R. 628 by Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), would identify six district courts in at least three judicial circuits for the pilot program.  Courts participating in the pilot may designate certain judges as those who will hear patent cases.  If a case is randomly assigned to a judge who does not want the case, the judge may decline the case, and the case will then randomly be reassigned to a patent-designated judge.

According to a press release issued by Senator Specter:

The core intent of the pilot program is to steer patent cases to judges that have the desire and aptitude to hear patent cases, while preserving the principle of random assignment to help avoid forum shopping.

As proposed in the bill, each district court selected for inclusion in the pilot program must:

  • have at least three judges who ask to hear patent cases under the program;
  • have at least 10 judges; and
  • either (a) be one of the 15 courts in which the most patent cases were filed in the last calendar year, or (b) have local patent rules.

As of January 2009, district courts having comprehensive local patent rules include:

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