On June 20, 2011, Judge Federico A. Moreno, Chief Judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, signed Administrative Order 2011-53 establishing a pilot program to encourage the enhancement of expertise by assigning certain judges to hear cases involving patents. This pilot program was a trial program that would run for a period of ten years. However, and unfortunately, after only three years into the pilot program, Judge Moreno, after conferring with his brethren on the bench, have decided to terminate the pilot program.
According to Administrative Order 2014-58, issued by Judge Moreno, “the administration of justice would best be served in this District by terminating the pilot project and allowing patent cases in the future to remain assigned at random to the Judges to whom they are initially assigned.”
The rationale in establishing the patent pilot program was actually quite intuitive. Looking at patent law at the appellate level, the Federal Circuit of Appeals, which is one of only twelve courts in the federal appellate system, has exclusive jurisdiction to hear patent case appeals from lower district courts across the nation. This provides patent dispute litigants with a central judicial body to have exclusive jurisdiction to hear appeals involving patent cases. Such a centralized appellate court avoids potential variation in holdings between the various appellate courts across the United States.
At the trial court level, district court judges nationwide are randomly assigned patent cases based on where the action is filed. Any particular judge may have tried numerous patent cases, or not a single one. Oftentimes, a district court judge’s docket is consumed with criminal trials and general civil litigation. Intellectual property cases, especially patent cases, are few and far between, making up a small fraction of total cases filed annually. As a result, most district court judges have limited experience concerning the nuances that go into trying a patent case.
By instituting the patent pilot program, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida was selected as only one of the fourteen to participate in the program. The program attempted to streamline patent cases filed in the district by having all patent cases assigned to a specific set of judges. This would increase the frequency in which the judges heard patent cases, thereby building a foundation of knowledge needed to try patent cases. The pilot program sought to replicate the Federal Circuit by having judges that specialized in hearing patent cases.
As the pilot program has now been terminated in the Southern District of Florida, all newly filed patent cases are randomly assigned to a judge in the Southern District of Florida, just like every other case. I was excited to learn of the pilot program in 2011 and hoped the program would make the judicial system more efficient for judges, litigants, and counsel to try patent cases in this jurisdiction. District court judges handle a wide array of cases. The pilot program was a great way to route the few patent cases filed in the Southern District of Florida to specialized judges who had a solid foundation of the specialized aspects of patent litigation. Although, through this experimental pilot program, the local patent bar had wished the program would have become a permanent system, it has come to an end. Fortunately, the judges of the Southern District are excellent and we will be fine without it.
If you have any questions about the patent process, contact Mr. Popowitz below.
Registered Patent Attorney
Intellectual Property Litigation
213 East Sheridan Street, Suite 3
Dania Beach, Florida 33004
Miami • Ft. Lauderdale • Boca Raton