On December 11, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts released proposed revisions to the local rules, specifically targeted at making patent litigation more efficient and faster. Unlike the current rules, the proposed rules are mandatory, rather than suggestive, and have more procedural structure. Massachusetts is currently the tenth most popular forum for patent litigation, despite being home to many of the country’s most innovative companies. Many believe the district’s lack of local patent rules (which can cause uncertainty on how cases will be handled) and the current lengthy time-to-trial discourage patent litigants from using the district for patent disputes. If enacted, the proposed local patent rules could change this.
The proposed rules borrow heavily from patent litigation-heavy districts like the Eastern District of Texas and the Northern District of California, and also include some unique features not found in those jurisdictions. Key features include the requirement that the court hold a claim construction hearing within nine months of the initial scheduling conference (ISC), and schedule trial within twenty-four months of the ISC. The proposed rules also require that fact discovery close fifteen months after the ISC, or sixty days after the court’s claim construction ruling, whichever is later. Expert discovery closes eighteen months after the ISC, or ninety days after the close of fact discovery, whichever is later.
The proposed rules also require “Preliminary Patent-Related Disclosures” of both patentee/plaintiff and accused infringer early in the litigation. The patentee is required to produce initial infringement claim charts, the prosecution history for the asserted patent(s), evidence of conception and reduction to practice, evidence of ownership, and identification of the real parties in interest. Accused infringers are required to produce core technical documents relating to the accused products, samples or source codes of the accused products or methods, noninfringement claim charts, invalidity claim charts, and prior art, as well as identify real parties in interest. There are no requirements for mandatory early disclosures of information relevant to an assessment of potential damages, as there are in some other districts like the Northern District of California.
The proposed rules are the initial work of an ad hoc committee of local patent litigators and the district court judges. The court is soliciting public comment through January 26, 2018.
To see a comparison of the proposed District of Massachusetts rules with the Eastern District of Texas and Northern District of California, please click here.