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West Texas Patent Case Assignment Order Stays in Place, for Now

Dec. 22, 2022, 4:26 PM

An order that changed the calculus for patent plaintiffs looking to file cases in Judge Alan D. Albright’s Waco courthouse remains in place under a new chief judge—for the time being.

Not long after joining the bench, Albright, a former patent litigator who crafted local rules to move patent cases quickly to trial, became popular with plaintiffs. At one point, nearly 25% of all patent litigation nationwide was pending before Albright, prompting criticism from Congress and US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Responding to this criticism, the Western District of Texas’ former chief judge, Orlando L. Garcia, entered an order to “equitably” distribute patent cases filed in Waco to 12 judges—including Albright—across the geographically giant district.

Some patent lawyers had speculated that new Chief Judge Alia Moses would replace that order when she succeeded Garcia, and that could still happen. Earlier this month she told Bloomberg Law she wouldn’t discuss plans for assignment of Waco patent cases publicly, calling it “court business.”

A few weeks later she tweaked a separate, general case-assignment order, indicating that—at least for now—Garcia’s order would remain in place.

But Moses did introduce an exception. One of the 12 judges who had been tapped to take Waco patent filings, El Paso-based Judge Frank Montalvo, would do so no longer.

Erick Robinson, co-chair of Spencer Fane LLP’s IP practice, noticed the tweak and wrote on LinkedIn this week that, in case “anyone thought Judge Garcia’s order had changed, unfortunately no such luck.”

Patent plaintiffs who file in Waco would still have to spin the wheel except “now-Senior Judge Montalvo is no longer on the wheel,” he wrote.

The removal of Montalvo from the randomization order wouldn’t have come as a total surprise to attorneys watching the district.

BakerBotts partner Jose Villarreal, who practices IP law in Austin, discussed in a recent interview the distribution of Waco lawsuits to judges, some of whom were not used to presiding over patent cases. “A lot of the judges are extremely busy with criminal matters, and especially along the border you hear that a lot.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Shapiro in Dallas at mshapiro@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Adam M. Taylor at ataylor@bloombergindustry.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com