TAKEAWAY: With the Patent Pilot Program concluding in July 2021, the number of district court lawsuits overseen by judges with experience in patent cases may begin to dwindle with potentially lower consistency in decisions.
In June 2011, Congress established a Patent Pilot Program designed to put patent cases in front of district court judges who received specialized patent law and case management training. Fourteen U.S. district courts were selected to participate in the 10-year program. The stated aim of the program was to increase the expertise of a selected number of judges involved in complex patent litigation in order to provide greater predictability and uniformity in patent decisions. The Patent Pilot Program officially concluded in July 2021.
Several judges have offered their perspective on the results of the program, some finding the program successful but others concluding that little was changed. A report prepared by the Federal Judicial Center at the halfway point of the program in 2016 found that patent cases before the participating judges had terminated (e.g., via dismissal, settlement, or other actions) at a lower percentage than other district court judges. Additionally, the report noted that judges who did not participate in the pilot program had dismissed more patent cases, thanks in part to voluntary dismissals. It was suggested that the relative inexperience of non-pilot judges had an effect on the duration and outcome of a case.
A final report from the Federal Judicial Center detailing the final conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the program is expected.