In a recent speech at the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chief Judge of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Diane Wood raised not just a few eyebrows when questioned the wisdom of granting the Federal Circuit exclusive jurisdiction in patent cases, suggesting the regional circuits could handle some of the cases.
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. Wood pointed out the regional appellate 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, something the Federal Circuit isn’t set up to do. In addition, the Supreme Court has taken on a relatively large percentage of cases coming from the Federal Circuit, which signals that the stakes are high and a second opinion is desirable.