Western District of Texas Judge Alan D. Albright has long been the nation’s top patent judge, but some had expected this to change as the result of a July 2022 standing order from the district’s chief judge that seemed designed to undercut that dominance. Filing rules previously let plaintiffs pick their division—guaranteeing they could select Judge Albright, where he is Waco’s only district judge. But the July order established that Waco’s patent cases would instead be randomly distributed among a group of 12 judges from across the entire district, including Judge Albright.
In the immediate aftermath of the July order, complaints filed in the Western District slowed down compared to the same time period in 2021. Yet as the year came to an end, the decline was less dramatic than some had anticipated. In particular, as shown below, West Texas litigation dropped significantly compared to 2021 in the three weeks that followed the order. This decline was driven mainly by NPEs, which likely paused their filing activity to reassess assertion strategies. However, filings picked up in September and eventually rebounded significantly, breaking even with 2021 for around a week starting in late October, before slowing again in November and December.
As explained in RPX’s fourth-quarter review, there are two primary reasons why West Texas filings have remained relatively steady: the district’s practice of assigning cases to the same judge based on overlap in their parties and asserted patents, which has led to a large number of those “grandfathered” cases being assigned to Judge Albright, and a shift in filing behavior from the nation’s most prolific patent plaintiff.
See the full report for details on this and other key trends that shaped patent litigation and the patent marketplace in Q4 and 2022.