Several significant trends are developing as I read this year's N. D Illinois patent decisions. The trends are largely, although not all, Chicago-specific. And they appear to be largely influenced by the not-so-new Local Patent Rules.

  1. Faster Settlement Times. Patent cases are settling faster. While the economy may still be playing a role, I believe that the LPR 2 initial contentions are driving early settlements. When parties take them seriously and make their best early cases, it is causing opponents to reconsider their positions and driving earlier settlements. Maybe more importantly, armed with more substantive analysis up-front, parties are talking more and more settlement discussions lead to more settlements. No doubt this is one of the impacts that the Court expected when it developed the LPR 2 initial contentions.  
  2. False Patent Marking is Dying. In early 2010, the Northern District was among the top three districts for false patent marking filings, in particular those cases brought by marking trolls (non-competitors in the defendant's industry). Unlike the Eastern District of Texas (which applied Rule 8 notice pleading to the intent requirement), the Northern District was split with many judges applying Rule 9 heightened pleading and a few applying Rule 8 notice pleading. That slowed the flow of cases to a degree, but what seems to have finished them is a combination of the Federal Circuit's BP Lubricants decision (requiring Rule 9(b) pleading for the intent requirement) and a decision this spring holding that corporate intent was not recognized in the Seventh Circuit, so the required intent must be shown in at least one employee, officer or agent of the corporation.  
  3. LR 56.1 Summary Judgment Decisions are on the Decline. There seem to be fewer decisions granting or denying summary judgment for failure to comply with the Local Rule 56.1 requirements for statements of material facts. Having tracked five years worth of intellectual property summary judgment decisions chastising parties for failure to comply with Local Rule 56.1, I cannot imagine that there is a trend toward strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1. Furthermore, this does not appear to be true in the trademark, copyright or trade secret realms. So, my suspicion is that this trend is really about fewer summary judgment decisions. And there are fewer summary judgment decisions for at least two reasons: 1) earlier settlement which avoids summary judgment motions; and 2) the Local Patent Rule 6.1 comment that judges have discretion to delay "early" summary judgment motions until the end of the discovery and the LPR 1.1 authority to delay motions raising claim construction issues until after the claim construction opinion issues.