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The Western District of Pennsylvania is Named a Patent Pilot Program Court


October 12, 2011

Pittsburgh's Federal District Court was recently named, among a handful of other federal courts across the country, as a Patent Pilot Program court.  In a June 2011 press release, Chief Judge Gary L. Lancaster of the Western District of Pennsylvania announced:

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has selected the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to participate in the Patent Pilot Program.  This ten-year Program is designed to enhance expertise in patent cases and to study the differences in reversal rates and disposition times between patent and non-patent judges.

The Western District of Pennsylvania qualified for the Program by virtue of its Local Patent Rules (LPRs), which have been in effect since 2005.  The Western District has seen a steady stream of patent cases since the LPRs were established, and has gained significant experience in handling patent cases.  Building on this expertise, several of the Western District judges have volunteered to participate in the Patent Pilot Program by agreeing to hear patent cases.

Under the Program, patent cases will be initially randomly assigned to all Western District judges.  A judge who is randomly assigned a patent case and is not among the designated judges may decline to accept the case, in which case it will then be randomly assigned to one of the district judges designated to hear patent cases.

  As noted by Chief Judge Lancaster:

This is a prestigious appointment that will enhance the Western District's reputation throughout the country and will solidify Western Pennsylvania as a burgeoning hub for the technology and medical industries.

Congressional support for the Patent Pilot Program goes back several years, with former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter having a large hand in the process.  Seeing the expertise and desire among the bench and patent bar in Pittsburgh, Senator Specter was a driving force behind the Patent Pilot Program, and promoted the Western District of Pennsylvania as a strong candidate for inclusion in the Program.

As a demonstration of its longstanding desire to hear patent cases, the Western District of Pennsylvania became the fourth district court in the country to adopt LPRs.  Several of the Western District judges, along with a committee of local IP attorneys from law firms, companies and academia, were instrumental in the creation and implementation of the LPRs.  Since their introduction, the LPRs have been well received and are generally considered to improve the speed and efficiency with which patent cases are handled in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The LPRs include a model scheduling order that provides structure and streamlines proceedings in patent cases.  If the deadlines set forth in the LPR model scheduling order are followed, the parties can expect to complete claim construction briefing and participate in a Markman Hearing within about six months from initiation of the suit.

Other features of the Western District of Pennsylvania LPRs include a standard protective order that is automatically entered at the beginning of an action, initial disclosure requirements intended to have the parties state their initial infringement and invalidity contentions early in the case, and a structured claim construction procedure that requires the parties to jointly prepare a chart of disputed claim terms and set forth their proposed claim constructions and evidentiary support prior to claim construction briefing.

In addition to the procedural framework provided by the LPRs, another beneficial aspect of bringing patent cases in the Western District of Pennsylvania is an emphasis on alternative dispute resolution.  Although mediation and other types of ADR do not always work in every patent case, there are many cases where mediation, or early neutral evaluation, can help the parties move toward settlement.  As the Western District hears more cases under the Patent Pilot Program, its emphasis on meaningful attempts at alternative dispute resolution may save litigants significant amounts of time and money.  

The Western District of Pennsylvania is well suited for participation in the Patent Pilot Program.  Such participation in the Program will further enhance the Western District's reputation as a favorable venue for patent litigation.

The full text of the LPRs can be found on the Western District of Pennsylvania website at www.pawd.uscourts.gov.