Texas lawyers lobby up in patent fight

Texas lawyers lobby up in patent fight

Judges and lawyers from the Eastern District of Texas are battling back at legislation partially aimed at curtailing the inordinate number of patent cases argued in the region. 

The district’s bar association this week hired its first lobbyist, Gaylord Hughey, who will focus on “patent venue issues.” 

Hughey is based in Texas, rather than Washington, so it is unclear what form the lobbying effort will take. But at least one high-profile lawmaker involved in patent reform, Senate majority whip John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Bipartisan House bill calls for strategy to protect 5G networks from foreign threats Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R), hails from the state. 

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The district has been beaten up on during the patent litigation reform debate, because its perceived friendliness toward patent plaintiffs, including abusive trolls, suing over infringement.

The district has been the highlight of multiple profiles on the subject, from “This American Life” to “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” The increased litigation is seen as an economic boon for the region.

The House’s bill, the Innovation Act, includes a strong provision restricting where a case can be argued. Reformers accuse patent trolls of shopping for a friendly venue, which sometimes has no real ties to the case at hand.

The provision is specifically aimed at the Eastern District of Texas. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) who sponsored the amendment, has called it out on multiple occasions. 

“The idea that that many should be concentrated in any one district or any one judge, particularly when it is not a center of innovation, shows that there is a need to get the appropriate venue,” he said earlier this year, specifically calling out the district and Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who has presided over a number of patent cases there.  

The provision would restrict patent lawsuits to judiciary districts where the alleged infringer has a principle place of business or established physical presence that gives rise to the infringement. Lawsuit would also be able to take place in a district where the inventor of the patent in the lawsuit conducted research or where a party has an established physical facility where either research or manufacturing on the named patent took place.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation compiled statistics earlier this week that found 44 percent of all patent cases in the United States are argued in the district. The EEF says that is because of its unique rules that speed up discovery, which can make a case more expensive for defendants and persuade them to settle, and its lower rate of dismissals compared to other districts. 

“Patent litigation has become important to the economic health of the communities surrounding the courthouse. But the federal courts don’t exist to generate business for a particular region,” the EEF wrote earlier this week. 

The House bill was expected to get a vote before the August recess before getting pushed back over concerns with a number of separate provisions. The Senate is working on its own legislation.