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Patent Suit Filings Continue On Record Pace

More than 3,100 new patent cases have been filed in federal court so far this year, a record-breaking number that could put patent filings in 2015 at an all-time high.

Legal analytics firm Lex Machina reported the first six months of 2015 were the busiest first-half-year period ever for patent litigation.  If filings continue at this rate, they would surpass the 6,000 mark by years end and top the 2013 record total.

Owen Byrd, Lex Machina’s general counsel, asserts that while the Patent Trial and Appeal Board has grown in importance since it opened for business in 2012, the numbers show that the district court remains the go-to venue in patent disputes.

“Federal courts continue to be critical forums for resolving patent disputes,” he said.

The potentially record-breaking numbers are a reversal from 2014, when filings dropped 40 percent in September compared to the year before. Experts at the time speculated that more plaintiffs might be opting not to file suit in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Alice, which held that abstract ideas implemented using a computer are not eligible for a patent.

Michael Sacksteder of Fenwick & West LLP also pointed to the Octane Fitness ruling as one that may have concerned patent owners, since that case made it easier for lower courts to require the losing party in patent cases to pay their opponents’ fees.

“I think we’re still seeing a lot of patents found invalid under Alice and seeing more fee awards than before,” he said. “But these entities that own these patents own these assets, and if they’re not doing anything with them, they’re definitely not getting anything out of them.”

Further, only 15 companies accounted for just more than 40 percent of all the cases filed in June and led by patent holding company Oberalis LLC, which filed 50 lawsuits, while taking on big name retailers like Toys ‘R’ Us, Macy’s Inc. and Petco Animal Supplies Inc.

The overall industry boom comes as lawmakers continue to debate legislation that proponents say will curb abusive patent litigation and reign in what some have called an abuse of the patent system.

For more information, see Law360.

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