Northern District of California Judicial Conference

Each year the federal judges of the US Northern District of California have a conference to discuss matters related to the improvement of administration of justice in the district.  This year’s conference, held April 11-13, had programs on topics as diverse as NSA surveillance issues, whether all civil cases should proceed to trial in a year, and a review of the “hot” cases before the US Supreme Court.  We were honored to be invited to participate in a panel on patent litigation (even though our panel was scheduled for 8:30 on Sunday morning).  Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal led a lively discussion among me, Cynthia Bright, VP and AGC, IP Litigation & Public Policy at Hewlett-Packard, Barney Cassidy, General Counsel at Juno Therapeutics, and Catherine Lacavera, Director of IP and Litigation at Google.  We discussed and debated specific issues related to so-called “non-practicing entities”, fee-shifting and other “patent reform” proposals now before Congress, the state of damages theories, and the impact of the AIA.  As we have said in prior posts, our bottom line is that while there is a “patent troll” problem, any reforms should be measured and balanced, and – particularly as it relates to the conference audience – should preserve the discretion of the judges to administer justice in each patent case on its merits, regardless of the identities of the litigants.