In January the House of Representatives passed a bill that would establish a pilot program in five district courts to develop district court judges with patent expertise. The program will provide judges in the five districts the opportunity to get specialized patent training. Cases, including patent suits, in the five districts will continue to be randomly assigned, but judges without the specialized patent training will have the option to transfer the cases to one of the patent-trained judges. Each of the five district’s will also be allowed to hire patent law clerks available to help judges on patent cases. I assume these clerks will be like habeas clerks that many district courts already have or staff clerks/attorneys at some of the regional circuits.
I expect that many district court judges will, quite reasonably, believe they already have gained the necessary experience through their own hard work, but will also appreciate the extra law clerk help and the training. It is a very interesting proposal which many expect to be approved by the Senate and signed into law this year. For more on the pilot program, check out Patently-O, the Infinite Monkey Theorem Blog (a new blog affiliated with www.patentmonkey.com – both of which are worth checking out), the IP Blawg and the WSJ Law Blog (an older post, but with some good information).