Because patent infringement cases frequently involve innovative technology, unique litigation procedures and unusual legal issues, patent holders prefer courts that are experienced in handling patent disputes. In the early 2000s, some federal districts began to adopt local patent rules ("LPRs"). Today, 25 of the 94 federal district courts nationwide have adopted LPRs. LPRs and other patent-specific standing orders (such as in the District of Delaware) promote a certainty of process and efficient management of patent claims. The select district courts that have adopted LPRs move their patent cases along more quickly and efficiently by front-loading important patent-specific disclosures and processes. For example, LPRs typically require (1) the parties to disclose their infringement and invalidity contentions by a certain date and (2) a claim-construction proceeding early in the case. The greater efficiency and certainty of these types of procedures make the federal district courts with LPRs favorable forums for patent litigants.
All three of North Carolina’s federal district courts adopted LPRs between 2007 and 2012. These three North Carolina LPRs are substantially similar to each other and to the LPRs and patent-specific procedures in popular patent forums such as the Eastern and Western Districts of Texas and the District of Delaware.
Consideration of the relative merits of different forums for patent cases is particularly timely because in 2021 23% of all U.S. patent infringement complaints were filed in the Waco division of the Western District of Texas, making that court the most popular forum for patent cases. However, last month the court issued an order requiring that future patent complaints be randomly assigned among all of the divisions and judges in the Western District, not just the one judge in the Waco division. That change is widely expected to lead to a shift in filings away from the Western District of Texas.
This paper (1) discusses the North Carolina LPRs, (2) compares those LPRs with those in other districts that handle many patent cases and (3) examines the quantitative and qualitative reasons why patent litigants should consider filing their claims in the North Carolina district courts (subject, of course, to personal jurisdiction requirements).