Patent Pilot Program in Certain U.S. District Courts

On December 17, 2010, Congress approved H.R. 628, a bill for a decade-long pilot program in which certain U.S. district courts will encourage enhancement of expertise in patent cases among district judges. During the Pittsburgh Intellectual Property Law Association Federal Judges Appreciation Luncheon & CLE Program’s Federal Judges Roundtable Discussion on March 16, 2011, Chief Judge Lancaster stated that he put in a request for the Western District of Pennsylvania to be one of at least six district courts that will be selected for the program.

The pilot program will allow district judges to request to hear patent cases. Those district judges who request to hear patent cases are then designated by the chief judge to hear them. In a participating district, a patent case will be able to be removed from a non-designated judge’s case load and then randomly re-assigned to a district judge designated to hear patent cases. The program is intended to “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” co-sponsor Hank Johnson, Jr. (D-GA) remarked.

The courts that are eligible to participate in the program are either: (1) the 15 district courts with the largest number of patent and plant variety protection cases filed in calendar year 2010; or (2) district courts that have adopted or certified the intention to adopt local rules for patent and plant variety protection cases. The Director of the Administrative Office will select at least: (1) three district courts with at least ten authorized district judgeships in which at least three judges have made a request to hear patent cases; and (2) three district courts with less than ten authorized district judgeships in which at least two judges have made a request to hear patent cases. During the ten year pilot program, periodic reports to the House and Senate will be made including comparison data between designated and non-designated judges on issues such as their reversal rates by the CAFC.

- Katie Cooper

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