Patent Litigation Up, New Filings in Northern District Down

Patent litigation has faced dramatic change in the last five years, with the total number of cases in district courts more than doubling since 2008, a new report on patent litigation shows.

Congress may have reason to be concerned about rising litigation by so-called patent trolls. The top ten patent infringement filers in 2013 were all patent monetization entities, or so-called trolls, with the top three filing over 100 lawsuits each, according to the Lex Machina’s 2013 Patent Litigation Report issued this week.

Three companies created solely to monetize patents, Melvino/ArrivalStar filed 137 lawsuits, Wyncomm filed 131, and Thermolife filed 117 patent suits in 2013, the report states.

But in addition, seven of the top 10 plaintiffs with the most patents asserted in open cases were operating companies, including: Ericsson, Finisar, Motorola Mobility, Apple, Philips and Pfizer, according to Lex Machina.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston may be one of the busiest patent judges in the country.  She tied for fifth nationally for most decisions on the merits in 2013, with 12 decisions, joining Judge Leonard Stark of Delaware, who also issued 12.

She also tied for first place in most summary judgment decisions issue on patent cases.  She and three other judges issued five each during 2013.  Judges Richard Seeborg and Ronald Whyte, who had four each, tied for second place.

During 2013, 128 patent trials were held, including 52 bench trials and 63 jury trials nationwide.  Over half were in just three courts; the District of Delaware, the Eastern District of Texas and the Southern District of New York.

Despite the proximity of Silicon Valley and the headline-grabbing Apple-Samsung trial, the Northern District of California saw a drop in the number of patent cases filed in 2013, down 11 cases, from 260 in 2012 to 249 in 2013, the report states.

The Central District of California in Los Angeles saw the biggest drop in new litigation, falling 100 cases, from 499 in 2012 to 399 in 2013 – a 20 percent drop.

But their loss was the Southern District of California’s gain. The San Diego court saw a 61 percent rise in patent filings in 2013, up from 141 in 2012 to 227 in 2013.

The Northern District of California was fourth in the country in number of trials in 2013, with nine.  Delaware and the Eastern District of Texas had 25 each and the Southern District of New York had 17.

Apple, which made the top 10 list as most frequent plaintiff, also made the top 10 list of most frequent defendants.

High tech firms dominated the list of most frequent defendants.  Along with Apple, with 59 cases, were Amazon, 50, AT&T, 45 cases, Google, 39 cases, Dell, HTC, and Samsung, with 38 cases each, Microsoft, 35 cases, LG and HP with 34 cases each.

Patent litigation is on the rise overall.  Federal courts saw a 12 percent rise in patent infringement suits filed, up from 5,418 new cases in 2012 to 6,092 in 2013, according to the report.

Get Lex Machina Report here.

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