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American Bar Association

ABA Section of Litigation
Intellectual Property Litigation

News & Developments


House of Representatives Passes a Bill Establishing a Pilot Program for Patent Litigation

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would establish a pilot program designed to enhance the expertise of federal judges in patent cases and improve the efficiency of patent litigation in the federal courts by steering cases to more experienced judges. Under H.R. 628, passed on March 17, 2009 by a vote of 409 to 7, six district courts would be selected from those courts with the largest number of patent cases or that have adopted patent local rules. Judges in these test courts could then either opt in to the program and receive randomly assigned patent cases, or opt out and have the choice of keeping or declining patent cases. The legislation authorizes $5 million annually over ten years for educational and professional development of the designated judges on patent matters and compensation for law clerks with patent expertise. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts would also be required to submit reports to Congress on the effectiveness of the new program, particularly the rate of reversal at the Federal Circuit for these cases and their time from filing to decision. An identical bill, S. 299, was introduced in the Senate the same day and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

On April 2, 2009, the Patent Reform Act of 2009, S. 515, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and referred to the Senate for a vote. The new bill incorporates S. 299 with one minor change to the selection of the six district courts—three district courts would be chosen from those with at least ten authorized judges and three would be chosen from those with less than ten authorized judges.

Prospects for Senate passage of the pilot program now likely depend on the outcome of voting on the Patent Reform Act, which includes much more controversial patent-related matters. It is unknown at this time when the Senate will consider the full bill. The committee will continue to monitor the progress of this legislation and provide updates as they occur.

Submitted by:
Justin Arbes
Hunton & Williams

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