While the rest of the country saw a year-over-year drop in patent cases during 2016, the Northern District saw an increase. According to the excellent data from Docket Navigator, the Northern District’s share of patent cases nearly doubled from 2.8% in 2015 to 5.3% in 2016. In a number of cases, the Northern District moved from 162 filed cases to 244. That is a significant jump back to 2012-13 patent case levels, after two years of depressed filings.

Other districts that saw a significant increase in filings included the Central District of California and the Southern District of Florida. Otherwise, most of the largest patent districts saw a decrease or stayed relatively even, including the Eastern District of Texas (down 7.5%), the District of Delaware (up 0.6%), the Northern District of California (up 0.4%), and the Southern District of New York (down 0.1%).

While there are no clear answers for why Chicago is bucking the national trend, there are several possible reasons:

  1. Anticipating the TC Heartland Supreme Court decision, parties are filing where the defendants actually are.
  2. While NPE cases have been dropping, competitors are still filing where patent issues with competitors make business sense. We have seen competitor cases remaining strong in Chicago and across the country.
  3. The Chicago market has seen an increase in quality plaintiff-side shops, including as the Niro firm splintered late last year and early this year.