50 most influential people in IP 2022: MIP recognises Orlando Garcia at the Western District of Texas
Orlando Garcia is the chief judge at the District Court for the Western District of Texas in the US
Most judges make it onto our top 50 list for setting groundbreaking precedent or handling a lot of intellectual property cases.
Orlando Garcia, chief judge at the District Court for the Western District of Texas, makes the cut for knocking a fellow Texas judge out of the running.
Alan Albright, also of the Western District of Texas, had been the busiest patent judge in the US.
His docket swelled to around 1,000 cases a year once patent plaintiffs found out he was a former patent litigator, keen to take IP matters and wouldn’t have to transfer high-tech cases under TC Heartland rules.
Albright’s influence had become so great that we featured him in our 2019, 2020 and 2021 top 50 lists – and he probably would have been in this year too.
But his influence was curtailed last July after Garcia issued an order that redistributed patent cases from Waco, where Albright is based, throughout the district.
The order made it so that patent plaintiffs couldn’t guarantee they would get Albright if they filed in Waco, making it much riskier to litigate in Western Texas.
Patent filings at the court dropped subsequently, although not as much as some thought they might.
The true effects won’t be seen for a while. Albright collected so many patent matters between late 2019 and mid-2022 that he won’t run short for some time. And for the time being, plaintiffs are still filing in Western Texas hoping to be heard in Waco.
But the decision is a blow to future patent owners looking to litigate in the US.
It may not have been Garcia’s alone, of course. In a bipartisan letter in 2021, Senators Thom Tillis and Patrick Leahy asked Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts to look into Albright’s court.
Roberts seemed to agree that there was an “extreme concentration of patent litigation” that was creating “unseemly and inappropriate conduct”.
In his year-end report for 2021, Roberts concentrated on the way patent plaintiffs chose venue.
Nonetheless, Garcia delivered the blow. The judge, who was appointed by former president Bill Clinton in 1994 and became chief in 2016, won’t be a popular figure with non-practising entities and other tech and software-related patent owners.