On January 2, 2023, Sarah Brooks was quoted in Law360 on the top litigation trends commanding the patent world’s attention in 2023, including how patent cases are assigned to Western District of Texas judges.
According to the article, Judge Orlando Garcia, then the chief judge of the Western District of Texas, mandated in July 2022 that patent suits filed in Waco will be randomly distributed to the district's 12 judges. Judge Alan Albright, the sole judge in Waco, who previously received every case, was known for policies that patent owners viewed as favorable, and that attracted a large volume of suits to his courtroom, drawing scrutiny from lawmakers.
When Judge Garcia's order was issued, there was speculation that the seemingly slim odds of drawing Judge Albright would lead patent owners to sue elsewhere. But four months on, Judge Albright still gets by far the most patent cases filed in the district, and the Western District of Texas remains the country's most popular patent venue.
Judge Albright's share of all new cases nationwide has dropped from 24% in the six months before the order, far greater than any other judge, to 10% after it. He is now just slightly ahead of Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the Eastern District of Texas, with 8%, as the nation's busiest patent judge.
"At least for me, I was expecting to see more of a dramatic shift than what we saw," said Brooks. She said attorneys will be watching closely how the filing trends develop, because "I think it remains to be seen whether the order will discourage plaintiffs from filing in West Texas." With Judge Albright still getting 50% of cases, "is a coin flip enough to discourage litigants from filing there?" Brooks added.
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