Big Changes Coming for Patent Litigation in the Western District of Texas
Random Judicial Assignments Will Likely End Judge Albright’s Grip on Patent Cases
Yesterday, the Chief Judge of the Western District of Texas announced that all patent infringement cases filed in Waco, Texas after July 25, 2022 will now be randomly assigned to one of 12 different judges in the district, instead of being automatically assigned to the only federal district judge sitting in Waco, Judge Alan Albright.
Judge Albright, a former patent litigator himself, had encouraged patent owners to file suit in Waco upon joining the judiciary. Since joining the bench, a significant portion of patent cases have been filed with Judge Albright, with nearly 25% of all patent lawsuits in recent years being before him. Yesterday’s order stated that the new policy was implemented “[u]pon consideration of the volume of new patent cases assigned to the Waco Division” in order to “equitably distribute” those cases. The order will undoubtedly have significant ramifications for the patent litigation bar.
Defendants in patent infringement suits often viewed Judge Albright’s practices as favorable for patent owners, including unwillingness to transfer cases out of district, stay cases in light of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office post-grant challenges to asserted patents, or consider early-stage dispositive motions on issues like patent eligibility (under § 101). That perception and his fast time to trial likely contributed to the large influx of cases into the Western District of Texas, which prior to Judge Albright, heard only one patent case per year on average.
While pending patent cases before Judge Albright will remain with him, it seems all but certain that this policy change will lead to fewer patent infringement cases being filed in the Western District of Texas, and far fewer ending up before Judge Albright. For further information about how this change may affect you, please speak with a Wolf Greenfield patent litigator.