Forum shopping in patent cases is not a new phenomenon. To be sure, the primary reasons Congress established the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1982 were to increase uniformity in patent doctrine and reduce forum shopping.1 Instead of eliminating forum shopping, however, the creation of the Federal Circuit merely shifted plaintiffs’ focus from appellate courts to district courts when looking for a friendly forum to pursue patent infringement suits.2
Guest Post by J. Jonas Anderson
Patent litigation is highly concentrated before a handful of district court judges. Judge Alan Albright of the Western District of Texas is the latest high profile “patent judge,” receiving over 20% of the patent cases nationwide in 2020 and on track to surpass that figure in 2021.1 But, he is not the first judge to have such a heavy patent caseload: Judge Gilstrap of the Eastern District of Texas received northward of 40% of all U.S. patent cases as recently as 2016;2 and a number of judges in the district of Delaware consistently receive a very large number of patent cases.3 While all district court judges are generalists, various judges, including Judge Albright and Judge Gilstrap have used procedural mechanisms and their courts’ assignment practices to become de facto specialists.4 Judge Albright now receives more patent cases per year (he’s on track for 926 this year) than the amount of patent appeals heard by the entire Federal Circuit (around 835 appeals).5
This blog post provides a brief summary of four of the most significant patent cases decided by the Federal Circuit last year. It covers cases concerning assignor estoppel, transfer, venue, and the application of the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution to administrative patent judges.