The national Patent Pilot Program is underway in participating district courts. Enacted under Public Law 111-349 on January 4, 2011, the pilot program is a 10-year project designed to enhance expertise in patent cases among district court judges. Congressional sponsors hope the program will “decrease the cost of litigation by increasing the success of district court judges.”1 To that end, each participating district court has designated several “patent” judges to hear patent cases. The hope is that these designated judges will be more efficient in handling patent cases and their decisions will fare better on appeal. Chief Judge Rader of the Federal Circuit has invited the designated judges to a conference in Washington, D.C. to share their patent expertise. The program will objectively assess disposition times and reversal rates between specialized patent judges and non-specialized judges over the 10-year period to see if such specialization produces better results.

Participating District Courts

To be eligible for the program, courts had to be among the 15 district courts with the largest number of patent and plant variety protection cases in 2010, or had to have in place (or certify an intention to adopt) local rules for such cases. Fourteen district courts have been selected to participate in the program. These courts are:

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

Participating Judges

Here is a list of participating district court judges in the Patent Pilot Program:

Click here to view the table.

Conclusion

Because the Patent Pilot Program impacts the most popular venues for patent litigation, most companies that file or face patent actions will be affected. This means that more cases will be handled by judges with greater understanding of the law and procedures for patent cases. While the impact of the program remains to be seen, it will be felt by many litigants and bears watching.