The Patent Pilot Program: What Is It, Is It Successful, and Should It Even Exist?

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Patents are notoriously complex. Unsurprisingly, litigation involving patents shares its subject matter’s innate intricacies. In the face of rising patent filings and increasingly complicated patent infringement lawsuits, Congress created the Patent Pilot Program (PPP) to combat several perceived shortcomings found among patent cases. The PPP provides a mechanism to channel patent cases to Article III district court judges that have the interest and ability to preside over, often extremely technical, patent cases. Enacted January 5, 2011, the PPP is just over halfway through the initial 10-year trial period.

This article examines several questions raised by the PPP’s existence and seeks to evaluate its empirical and anecdotal success. Part II provides an overview of the PPP and the objectives Congress hoped to achieve with its inception. Part III discusses the case against the PPP, including the creation of specialty courts, erosion of random case assignment, and risks associated with dedicated PPP clerks. Part IV adopts an empirical approach for assessing the success of the PPP, using various metrics of judicial expertise and efficiency. Part V presents a number of personal opinions of several Central District of California district judges within the PPP on the PPP’s effects on expertise, efficiency, quality of life, and hiring practices. Part VI discusses whether the PPP has been a success and proposes several changes to help further the PPP’s goals.

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