Issa/Schiff Patent Pilot Bill Approved by Voice Vote

Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives, last night, voted to establish a pilot program in certain United States district courts to encourage enhancement of expertise in patent cases among district judges.  H.R. 5418, introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) was approved by voice vote.

“At present, far too many district court decisions are appealed to the Federal Circuit, because the Federal Circuit reverses district courts much of the time,” said Rep. Issa in a statement for the Congressional Record.  “These reversals are so frequent that many litigants see an appeal to the Federal Circuit as an automatic next step.  Such litigation decreases the productivity of American businesses, because resources that could be used for research and development and other more productive endeavors, goes to pay attorney's fees.”

“This legislation will raise the level of expertise in patent litigation, improve the reliability of patents and allow businesses to spend more time inventing and less time litigating,” Rep. Schiff said.  “This will reduce the cost to consumers of everything from promising new medicines to the latest cell phones.”

Under the legislation, if a judge opts-in to the new program and a patent case is randomly assigned to that judge, that judge keeps the case.  When a case is randomly assigned to a judge in a district with the pilot program who has not opted to hear patent cases, that judge has the choice of keeping the case or referring the case to the group of judges who have opted-in to the program.

The core intent of the pilot program is to enhance training and staffing for judges who have the desire and aptitude to hear more patent cases, while preserving the principle of random assignment to help avoid forum shopping.  The pilot project will last no longer than 10 years, and periodic studies will occur to determine the pilot project’s success.

H.R. 5418 has garnered broad support from the patent community and has not faced opposition in Congress.  Last week, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S. 3923 as a companion bill to H.R. 5418.  H.R. 5418 remains on track to become law before the adjournment of the 109th Congress.

Congressman Schiff is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and represents California’s 29th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.