Reps. Schiff and Issa, Sen. Specter Introduce Legislation to Improve Patent Litigation in District Courts

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Reps. Schiff and Issa, Sen. Specter Introduce Legislation to Improve Patent Litigation in District Courts

Washington, DC – House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Darrell Issa, Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today introduced the House and Senate companion bills H.R. 628 and S. 299, legislation creating a pilot program to enhance the expertise of district court judges hearing patent cases.  The legislation will establish a pilot project in at least five district courts where judges will have the choice of opting-in to the new program to hear patent cases.  Each of the test courts will be assigned a clerk with expertise in patent law or with the technical issues arising in patent cases.  The bills will also allocate funding to provide educational opportunities for judges who opt-in to the program. 

“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.”

“Sen. Specter’s support for this legislation is a critical boost,” said Rep. Issa who first introduced the bipartisan legislation with Rep. Schiff in 2006.  “There is broad recognition that enhancing expertise on patents in Federal courts can create a more just and cost-effective venue for legal challenges.”

“This legislation will ensure that our nation’s judges are equipped to handle patent cases by providing them with training in this highly technical area of law,” Senator Specter said.  “This, in turn, will encourage innovation by addressing the rising burden that patent litigation imposes on our inventors and economy.  The patent system is complex; the changes that we make to improve it will invariably be multifaceted.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on this important legislation.”

The core intent of the pilot program is to steer patent cases to judges that have the desire and aptitude to hear 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 studies will occur to determine the pilot project’s success.

“Prior to coming to Congress, I was part of a number of patent suits.  I was often struck by the fact that many district court judges either knew little of the applicable law, or did not understand the technology involved,” said Issa.  “Patent litigation often costs litigants over $10 million and can inject crippling uncertainty into a business.  This legislation will help courts and help businesses and individual inventors who patent ideas.”

The Patent Pilot bill was originally introduced in 2006.  It was passed by the House of Representatives in both the 109th and 110th Congresses but has not been approved in the Senate.