The Northern District of Illinois has been selected as one of fourteen district courts to participate in a ten year patent pilot program.  Starting next month, judges in the Northern District will be able to designate themselves as patent judges.  When a patent case is filed, it will be randomly assigned just like every other case.  But if the case is assigned to a non-designated judge, that judge will be free to decline the case.  If the assigned judge declines, the case will be randomly reassigned to one of the designated judges.

The Federal Judicial Center will send periodic updates on the pilot program to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.  Additionally, the Federal Judicial Center will develop a webpage with a variety of forms and case management training information, as well providing the pilot districts specialized patent law and case management training.

From my perspective, the most intersting trend will be whether patent cases begin to cluster around those judges that self-designate as patent judges, or if the non-designated judges begin taking patent cases.

The other districts selected for the pilot program include many of the major patent courts:

  • Central District of California
  • Northern District of California
  • Southern District of California
  • Southern District of Florida
  • District of Maryland
  • District of Nevada
  • District of New Jersey
  • Eastern District of New York
  • Southern District of New York
  • Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Western District of Tennessee
  • Eastern District of Texas
  • Northern District of Texas