2013 Patent Litigation Year in Review
|Written by Owen Byrd & Brian Howard
Posted: May 14, 2014 @ 8:00 am
The world of U.S. patent litigation has changed dramatically in the last five years: total patent cases filed in district courts have more than doubled since 2008, the American Invents Act was passed in 2011 and took effect in 2012, and cases such as Apple-Samsung have captured headlines with eye-popping damages awards for patent infringement in widely used products.
Against this backdrop, Lex Machina had recently released a 2013 Patent Litigation Year in Review. The report draws on Lex Machina’s unique and rich Legal Analytics data on U.S. District Courts and judges, law firms, parties, patents, case merits decisions, damages awards, and International Trade Commission (ITC) investigations and Administrative Law Judges (ALJs).
What follows is the Executive Summary from the report.
Plaintiffs filed 6,092 new patent cases in U.S. District Courts in 2013, compared to 5,418 new cases filed in 2012, a 12.4% increase.
A plurality of these new cases were filed in the Eastern District of Texas (1,495 cases, 20% increase over 2012) and the District of Delaware (1,336 cases, 33% increase over 2012). The Central District of California saw the greatest decrease in new cases filed (399 cases, 20% decrease over 2012).
Trials were held in 128 patent cases in 2013, including 52 bench trials and 63 jury trials. Thirteen cases involved both bench and jury trials. Over half of all trials were held in the District of Delaware (25), the Eastern District of Texas (25) or the Southern District of New York (17). Cases went to trial fastest in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; its 255-day median time to trial was approximately 12 times faster than the 2,423 days it took a case to get to trial in the Western District of New York, the slowest district.
Judge Rodney Gilstrap in the Eastern District of Texas was assigned 941 new patent cases in 2013, far outpacing the 399 cases assigned to his Delaware colleague Judge Leonard Stark, who ranked second.
Seven judges issued more than ten decisions on the merits of patent cases. Judge Gilstrap, along with District of Delaware Judges Richard Andrews and Sue Robinson, each issued 15 decisions. Seven other judges each issued four or five summary judgment decisions.
Fish & Richardson, with 308 cases, led all national law firms when ranked by number of open cases in 2013 (filed 2009-2013). Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell led all Delaware firms, with 604 open cases in 2013. Ward & Smith led all Texas firms, with 245 open cases.
Not surprisingly, all ten plaintiffs that filed the most new patent cases in 2013 are patent monetization entities (PMEs). Melvino/ArrivalStar, Wyncomm and Thermolife each filed more than 100 cases. But seven of the ten plaintiffs with the most patents asserted in open cases are operating companies, including Ericsson, Finisar, Motorola Mobility, Apple, Philips and Pfizer.
The top defendant named in cases filed in 2013 was Apple (59 cases), followed by Amazon (50 cases). Other tech companies, including AT&T (45 cases), Google
(39 cases), Dell (38 cases), HTC (38 cases), Samsung (38 cases); Microsoft (35 cases), LG (34 cases), and HP (34 cases), rounded out the top ten.
PMEs ArrivalStar and Melvino jointly asserted six of the ten most frequently asserted patents, all involving systems for monitoring or tracking vehicle status, travel or proximity.
4,917 patents were at issue in all cases filed during 2013. Of these, 3,032, or 61%, had not been litigated in the past 10 years.
The number of merits decisions by district courts invalidating patents under 35 U.S.C. § 101, for lack of patentable subject matter, continued to increase, from two in 2010 to 14 in 2013.
The 10 largest damages awards ranged from $1 billion, to Monsanto from DuPont for infringement of a patent for genetically modified seeds, to just over $15 million, to Tomita from Nintendo for infringement of a video camera image system.
Damages generally increased from 2012 to 2013, although headline-stealing damages caused the average damages to increase more (28%) than the median damages (22%).
Finally, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) remains an important venue for resolving patent disputes. Total new ITC investigations in 2013 stabilized at 41, almost identical to 2012’s 42 new investigations, after spiking to 70 in 2011.
Of the six currently-serving ITC Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), Charles Bullock
has disposed of the largest number of investigations, 125 in total. Theodore Essex has resolved 86 investigations, Edwards Gildea has resolved 57, David Shaw has resolved 29, Thomas Pender has resolved 23, and Sandra Lord has resolved three.
About the Authors
Owen Byrd is Chief Evangelist and General Counsel for Lex Machina. He provides thought leadership in the domain of Legal Analytics and its application to IP law. Owen also writes, blogs, webcasts, and speaks at industry and academic events. Owen h as previously lead data-centric software, real estate and non-profit ventures.
Brian Howard is a Legal Data Scientist for Lex Machina. He works on providing technology-enabled analytic services that answer complex questions posed by customers by drawing insights from Lex Machina’s data. Prior to coming to Lex Machina, Brian worked at the Durie Tangri law firm in San Francisco, where he defended and advised clients accused of infringe software patents. Prior to that he was at Quinn Emanual, where he worked on the Apple/HTC/Motorola/Samsung patent litigation.
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