California's appeal as a venue for patent cases just got a shot in the arm thanks to a pilot program designed to train interested judges in the complexities of patent law. The goal is to reduce the nation's ever-growing backlog of intellectual property cases, which can be notoriously technical and time consuming.
Over the next ten years the congressionally funded program aims to increase the expertise of participating jurists, at the same time allowing other judges in the same district to opt out of accepting patent cases they find particularly onerous.
Of the 15 federal districts across the nation selected for the program by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, California's Northern, Central, and Southern districts together will supply the most participants: 14 district judges and 7 magistrate judges.
The program does raise some issues around forum shopping. For example, when a patent case is randomly assigned to one of the 26 active judges in the Central District of California, if that judge is not in the pilot program he or she has 30 days to decide whether to accept the case. If it's declined, it is then reassigned to one of the four Central District judges participating in the pilot.
"We know which [judges] are almost certain to opt out because they dislike patent cases," says Bryant C. Boren Jr., a partner with Baker Botts. By process of elimination then, "this pilot program gives a better sense of who your judge is going to be."
Participating California Judges