Proposed change of jurisdiction for patent cases

BVWireIssue #133-2
October 9, 2013

Watch out Federal Circuit! In a recent speech at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Judge Diane Wood, who just rose to Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, questioned the wisdom of granting the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction in patent cases. The regional circuits could pick up some of the cases, she suggested.

In her opinion, the rationale for the type of specialty court the Federal Circuit represents may no longer hold up. Patent cases are no more complex than many of the other cases federal judges in all the circuits handle regularly—think environmental or bankruptcy cases. These judges have the benefit of a free exchange of ideas within the circuit and with other circuits, making for a dynamic debate on the issues. The Federal Circuit lacks this process. Also, the Supreme Court has taken on a relatively large number of cases coming from the Federal Circuit, which signals that the stakes are high and a second opinion is desirable.

Judge Wood is on the same circuit as Judge Richard osner, one of the most outspoken critics of the existing patent litigation system. Their differing political orientation—she's a liberal (and often mentioned as contender for a Supreme Court vacancy), and he's a conservative—does not prevent their agreeing on some of the related issues, she says in a recent follow-up interview with Corporate Counsel (free registration required).

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