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US patent litigation up 12.4%, with trolls the top 10 plaintiffs

A new report from Lex Machina underlines how quickly patent litigation is increasing, and reveals the districts with the biggest caseloads, the top plaintiffs and the most popular targets for litigation (no prizes for guessing which firm is sued the most)

The number of new patent litigation cases filed in US district courts last year was up 12.4% on 2012, according to the new Patent Litigation Year in Review report from Lex Machina. Some 6,092 new cases were filed last year, compared with 5,418 the year before.

The Eastern District of Texas and District of Delaware had the biggest increases in cases. The Eastern District of Texas had 1,495 new cases filed, up 20% over 2012. Delaware had 1,336 cases, up 33% over 2012. In contrast, the Central District of California had the greatest decrease, with its 399 cases down 20% on 2012.

Trials were held in 128 patent cases last year, including 52 bench trials and 63 jury trials, while 13 cases involved both bench and jury trials. More than half of all trials were held in the District of Delaware (with 25), the Eastern District of Texas (25) or the Southern District of New York (17). Cases went to trial the fastest in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, with its 255 day median time to trial roughly 12 times faster than the 2,423 days in the slowest district, the Western District of New York.

Judge Rodney Gilstrap in the Eastern District of Texas was assigned the most new cases, with 941. No other judge in any district was assigned more than 400. Judge Leonard Stark’s 399 cases ranked him second.

Fish & Richardson, with 308 cases, led all national law firms ranked by open cases filed between 2009-2013. Morris Nichols Arsht & Tunnell led all Delaware firms, with 604 open cases. Ward & Smith led Texas firms with 245 open cases.

All of the top 10 plaintiffs that filed the most new patent cases are defined by LexMachina as patent monetization entities. Melvino/ArrivalStar, Wyncomm and Thermolife each filed more than 100 cases. In contrast, seven of the 10 top plaintiffs with most patents asserted in open cases are operating companies, including Ericsson, Finisar, Motorola Mobility, Apple, Philips and Pfizer.

Apple was named the defendant in 59 new cases, followed by Amazon with 50 cases, AT&T with 45 cases, Google with 39 cases, Dell, HTC and Samsung all with 38 cases, Microsoft with 35 cases, and LG and HP both with 34.

Some 4,917 patents were asserted in all the cases filed in 2013. Of these, 3,032 – or 61% – had not been litigated in the past 10 years. ArrivalStar and Melvio jointly asserted six of the 10 most frequently asserted patents, all involving systems for monitoring or tracking vehicle status, travel or proximity.

The size of damage awards continues to go up, with the average increasing 28% last year and the median increasing 22%. The biggest damage award last year was the $1 billion awarded to Monsanto from DuPont for infringement of a patent for genetically modifies seeds.

New ITC investigations stabilized at 41, compared with 2012's 42, after spiking to 70 in 2011. Of the six ITC Administrative Law Judges currently serving, Charles Bullock has disposed of the most investigations – 125 in total. Theodore Essex resolved 86 investigations, Edwards Gildea resolved 57, David Shaw resolved 29, Thomas Pender resolved 23 and Sandra Lord resolved just three.

The 2013 Patent Litigation Year in Review can be downloaded here.

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