House passes pilot program for judges to volunteer for patent casesFebruary 13, 2007

Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.34, a bill that would establish a pilot program that would enable district court judges who want to hear patent cases to volunteer for such cases as well as receive additional training on patent law. The bill now moves to the Senate, where some expect it will also pass and eventually be signed into law by President Bush this year. Under the bill, at least 5 district courts in at least 3 different judicial circuits would be designated for the program. The 5 districts must (1) be among the 15 districts where the most patent and PVPA cases were filed the previous year, (2) have at least 10 active judges, and (3) have at least 3 of those judges volunteer for the program. Once the program is instituted, judges participating in the program will receive additional training in patent law. More interestingly, while cases would still be randomly-assigned to judges, those judges who did not elect to participate in the program could “opt-out” of a patent case in the event one was assigned to them, in which case it would go to a judge that volunteered for the program. The goal is to streamline patent cases in the districts where the most patent cases are filed. As an added bonus for law students interested in patent law and looking for judicial clerkships, the bill also authorizes funding for “compensation of law clerks with expertise in technical matters arising in patent and plant variety protection cases, to be appointed by the courts designated under subsection (b) to assist those courts in such cases.” Update (2/14): Techdirt isn’t very excited about this proposal.

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