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Will Surging Patent Litigation Make Eastern Texas the First Federal Court District to Be Declared a ‘Judicial Hellhole’?

Echoing growing concerns voiced by the high-tech and finanacial service sectors, ATRA president Tiger Joyce’s August 24 letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal criticizes the patent troll-friendly federal courts in the Eastern District of Texas.

Patent trolls are setting up shop there, writes Joyce, because of litigation advantages they derive from “[l]ocal rules changes initiated by Judge T. John Ward.”

Joyce also points out that Judge Ward’s son “enjoys a thriving patent litigation practice in the district.”

Excluding false marking cases, new patent lawsuits last year in this troublesome Texas district outnumbered those in every other federal district, and included 3,879 defendants—a 70% increase from 2009 and more than four times the next highest number for new defendants.  In all, more than a quarter of all defendants sued in new patent cases nationwide in 2010 were sued in this rural Texas district.

Joyce urged the Senate to “investigate the Eastern District of Texas when they consider nominees for two pending judicial vacancies there,” and he said Congress should include in much-needed patent-reform legislation “measures to reduce the drag that patent trolls impose on our economy.”

Meanwhile, Judicial Hellholes reporters are scrutinizing the district and may ultimately decide to make it the first federal court district ever cited as a Judicial Hellhole in their annual year-end report, coming in December.

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