Earlier this year, we blogged that patent suits were in full bloom in November 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The rush occurred to beat the Dec. 1 date when the updated Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were to take effect. Now patents and the Tyler, Texas, court are making legal headlines again. This time, it’s regarding abstract patent motion rules that were deemed too restrictive.
According to Ars Technica, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap for the Eastern District of Texas hears more patent cases than any federal judge. (This isn’t surprising given that back in November 2015, 467 of the 851 patent suits filed were submitted in this Texas court.) In 2015, he installed a set of rules for patent cases that were quite controversial and have since been withdrawn.
Specifically per Ars, the rules stated that defendants who sought to file a motion under Section 101 of the U.S. patent laws “may do so only upon a grant of leave from the Court after a showing of good cause, which shall be presented through the letter briefing process.” Ars refers to the letter as a “Cliff’s Notes version of the motion” that presents why it’s worthwhile. Some background on Section 101 …
In 2014, we blogged about the notable patent case before the U.S. Supreme Court: Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank. The court was to consider the application of patent protection on software, specifically computer-implemented inventions, and whether it was appropriate under Section 101 of the Patent Act. The court affirmed the earlier judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that decided that favor of the defendant. The Supreme Court declared that stating an abstract idea “while adding the words ‘apply it’” is not enough for patent eligibility. Since then, courts have interpreted the decision as a ban on software patents around basic processes.
Judge Gilstrap’s 2015 rules and letter enabled him to allow or deny a motion. For defendants, this only slowed the patent lawsuit process that already faced very tight deadlines. Time was money and complaints about the judge’s rules violating defendants’ procedural rights were lodged. So while the rules for patent cases have been loosened, concerns remain about procedures in Texas.