Behind the numbers: 2023 patent litigation trends in the Western District of Texas
By Chris Larus and Bryan Mechell
February 8, 2024
The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas continues to be among the most active patent litigation districts in the United States, but mid-2022 changes implementing random patent case assignment procedures in the Waco Division appear to have had at least some downward influence on new patent case filings in 2023.
Overall patent filings in the district have decreased almost 41% from 882 in 2022 to 523 in 2023. In addition, the share of new patent cases in the Western District of Texas assigned to Judge Alan D Albright of Waco decreased substantially—he received 80% of the court’s patent cases in 2022, but his share shrank to 40% in 2023. Nevertheless, Judge Albright’s share of new patent case filings remains very significant, and he maintains one of the most active patent litigation dockets with 15 patent trials in 2023.
New patent case filings continue downward trend
The number of new patent case filings in the Western District of Texas grew substantially following Judge Albright’s appointment in September 2018. But those numbers declined in 2022, and 2023 filings continued to slip.
This is likely part of a broader trend showing approximately 18% fewer patent case filings across the United States in 2023 versus 2022 (3,129 filings in 2023 and 3,818 filings in 2022). However, the trend is markedly more substantial in the Western District of Texas—which saw a 57% decrease in new patent cases in 2023—implying it is also to some extent a function of plaintiffs’ filings elsewhere.
Figure 1: Patent cases in the Western District of Texas
Data Source: Docket Navigator
New patent cases rising in Austin Division
While the Waco Division continues to see the most new patent case filings in the Western District of Texas, 2023 marked a continued trend showing increasing filings in the Austin Division. Of the 523 new patent cases filed in the Western District of Texas in 2023, 18% were in the Austin Division. This marks a significant increase over recent years: 8% in 2022 and 5% in 2021 of new patent cases in the district were in the Austin Division.
Figure 2: Patent cases in each division of the Western District of Texas
Data Source: Docket Navigator
Judge Albright retains substantial share of new patent case assignments in WDTX.
As has been well-publicized, in July 2022, then-Chief Judge Orlando Garcia issued an order ending the automatic assignment of new patent cases filed in the Waco Division to Judge Albright. The July 2022 order stated that, “in an effort to equitably distribute” the volume of new patent cases assigned to the Waco Division, all new patent cases filed there would be randomly assigned to various judges throughout the Western District of Texas.
The anticipated impact of this order was that—setting aside potential “related” case designation—parties filing in the Waco Division could no longer expect a specific judicial assignment. Although the order was amended a few times in late 2022, the random assignment provision for all patent cases has remained in place. While this has resulted in changes to the distribution of new patent cases in 2023, Judge Albright still received by far the largest share of new patent case filings—199 in 2023—or 40% of new patent cases in the district.
Many of these 2023 assignments result from newly-filed cases having been designated as “related” (per Western District of Texas policy) to other cases previously handled by Judge Albright. Thus, the impact of the July 2022 order will likely increase over time as these previously assigned related cases resolve.
Patent jury trials before Judge Albright maintain brisk pace
Judge Albright was assigned 1,844 of the 2,382 patent cases filed in the Western District of Texas between January 2021 and December 2023. Not only is he continuing to receive a substantial share of new patent case assignments in the Western District of Texas, he also maintains a very active trial calendar. Indeed, Judge Albright presided over 15 patent trials this year, according to Docket Navigator. These 2023 patent jury trials included some of the largest damages verdicts in the country this year:
- Touchstream Technologies Inc v Google, Case No. 6:21-cv-00569 ($338.8 million damages award). Touchstream’s infringement allegations involved three patents relating to using a device, like a smartphone, to cause video to play on a second screen, such as a television. The jury determined that Google infringed the asserted patents through its Chromecast devices.
- Textron Innovations v SZ DJI Technology Co, Case No. 6:21-cv-00740 ($278.9 million damages award). Textron’s allegations of infringement focused on technology used in defendant’s popular drones. The jury found that the defendant had willfully infringed patents and issued a $278.9 million damages award.
- Ravgen Inc v Laboratory Corp of America Holdings, Case No. 6:20-cv-00969 ($272.5 million damages award). Ravgen’s infringement allegations involved a method of screening fetuses for down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities. The jury awarded over $272 million in damages, finding that Laboratory Corp of America willfully infringed Ravgen’s patented method.
- Streamscale Inc v Cloudera Inc, Case No. 6:21-cv-00198 ($240 million damages award). Streamscale alleged that Cloudera’s CDH open-source data-management platform infringed three of StreamScale’s patents relating to cloud-based data storage technology. The jury found that Cloudera infringed.
Judge Albright’s prevailing practice in 2023 was for one-week trials.
Although new patent cases filings trended down in 2023, the district remains among the most active for patent litigation. Given the significant cases tried in the district and Judge Albright’s well-deserved reputation as among the country’s most experienced and hard-working patent trial judges, the Western District of Texas is likely to remain among the most popular patent venues for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, Judge Albright’s 2024 trial calendar remains very busy, with numerous high profile patent cases set for trial in the coming months.
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