The top judge for patent litigation in both 2021 and Q4 was District Judge Alan D. Albright, who has played a key role in the Western District of Texas’s rise to the top of the venue charts over the past several years. In 2021, 19% of all patent litigation nationwide fell in his courtroom (rising to 21% for Q4). Judge Albright’s share of NPE litigation was even higher last year, at 33%—climbing to 41% when excluding litigation from file-and-settle monetization firm IP Edge LLC, an outlier that generally prefers Delaware.
Judge Albright has given plaintiffs a variety of reasons to prefer his courtroom since he took the bench in 2018—including by establishing rules designed to streamline and speed up litigation before him, as well as taking a restrictive posture toward certain types of defensive motions. For example, he has expressed general inclinations against staying cases pending the outcome of America Invents Act (AIA) reviews (citing his belief in the importance of jury trials) and against granting early patent eligibility motions under Alice.
That said, the end of the year did see some notable exceptions to those plaintiff-centric tendencies, including Judge Albright’s decision to grant a stay in litigation filed by DynaEnergetics due to a pending AIA trial—although the circumstances are arguably somewhat distinct. Specifically, the stay contemplated the outcome not of an inter partes review (IPR) but a post-grant review (PGR), which has a broader preclusive effect on district court litigation due to the availability of more grounds for challenging patent claims; moreover, the USPTO had also granted a request for ex parte reexamination of the patent. Meanwhile, Judge Albright appears to have recently invalidated patents under Alice for the first time based on unrelated challenges brought by Facebook and Intel—for the former case, granting summary judgment on the eve of trial; and for the latter, deciding the defendant’s Rule 12 Alice motion over a year after filing.
See RPX’s fourth-quarter report for more on Judge Albright, including his ongoing dispute with the Federal Circuit over convenience transfers—with recent developments suggesting that defendants in his courtroom will continue to face an uphill battle when seeking transfers on that basis.