Tech policy aficionados should by now be familiar with efforts to reform the patent system. Issues range from fixing the poor quality of granted patents to instituting post-grant review procedural reforms. What you don’t hear much about are efforts to educate judges on patents. Because no matter how much patent law is reformed to increase patent quality on the front-end, we’re still going to see patents being litigated in court.
That’s why I’m happy to see today’s reintroduction of Rep. Adam Schiff’s and Rep. Darrell Issa’s bill, HR 628. The bill creates a pilot program to educate participating judges on patent law and the technical matters underlying patent claims in Federal District Courts (HR 628 is the same as last session’s bill HR 5418). Here’s my analysis of the bill from when it was introduced last session.
Judges have considerable power to affect a trial. They make procedural and evidentiary decisions, and often a judge’s decision at trial can only be overturned on appeal if there was an abuse of discretion (a high burden for an appellant to meet).
HR 5418 is a targeted pilot program and its effect could be substantial, if not immediate. Better informed judges can weed out frivolous claims more quickly while focusing on cases with legitimate claims. As a result, anticipated and actual costs of enforcing and defending lawsuits decrease, reducing the burden on all parties but particularly the budgets of small firms. Less money for lawyers means more money for innovating, so firms can increase their research budgets and returns on investment.