New Patent Suits in Eastern District of Texas Shatter Records By Jennifer J. Jedra
From April to June 2015, 839 patent infringement cases were filed in the Eastern District of Texas. The cases filed represents a 53.6% increase from the first three months of 2015 (which also set a record for a single three-month period). Often, high-volume plaintiffs are businesses that earn revenue exclusively by securing licensing fees and settlements out of businesses accused of patent infringement (referred to as “non-practicing entities” or “patent trolls”).
This information comes from a study conducted by Lex Machina, a supplier of data regarding intellectual property litigation. Nationwide, a record 1,656 patent infringement lawsuits were filed during the second quarter. Lex Machina says that high-volume plaintiffs (those that file more than ten cases per year) are leading the rush to file suit in the Eastern District of Texas. Such plaintiffs accounted for 650 patent cases in the Eastern District of Texas from April to June 2015. That represents 77 percent of the new caseload for that court.
The District of Delaware is the second busiest venue for patent infringement filings. However, only 101 new patent cases were filed in the District of Delaware in the second quarter. Just six of those were from high-volume plaintiffs. These numbers are in line with a steady downward trend for the District of Delaware.
This may be because plaintiffs in the District of Delaware see the court’s early Markman hearings as a negative in getting defendants to settle cases there. This is in contrast to the Eastern District of Texas, which generally holds claim construction hearings after a great deal of pretrial discovery has been done. Furthermore, even though the size of jury verdicts has generally declined in recent years, the Eastern District of Texas still boasts an environment that is very friendly towards plaintiffs or patent trolls.
Lawmakers recognize patent troll litigation is a problem. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet just yet. An intimate understanding of the issues that arise in litigating against trolls is a first step toward defining trolls in a way that makes meaningful and effective legislation possible. In the meantime, your patent attorney can help you understand things that every patent litigation defendant should consider.