Marshall, Texas, that is. Since his appointment to the Federal bench seven years ago, Judge T. John Ward of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has tried over one hundred and sixty patent trials. Most federal judges see less than one their plate a year, and still treat that one like the liver they are waiting to dish to dog as soon as mom turns her head.
Attorneys for patent holders all over the country flock to tiny Marshall, Texas. Why? Well for a start, nearly ninety percent of the rulings are in favor of the patent holder. Another reason is the “rocket docket” Judge Ward demands makes litigation much faster and affordable for small inventors. Bear in mind that the “nearly ninety percent” number does not include the large number of defendants who settle, rather than face Judge Ward’s wrath. Given the average attorney fees associated with patent litigation at over one and a half millions dollars per side, many defendants choose to roll the dice and try to bleed the patent holder dry before a jury ever hears the case.
Judge Ward’s ruthless efficiency, detailed knowledge of complex patent concepts and digital filing system combine to make Marshall, Texas almost a boutique court. Patent cases that take three or more years to be heard in other parts of the country (I am presently involved in a patent case that was filed three and one half years ago and do not even have a trial date), take two years or less in Marshall. It used to be just over a year, but the pace of filings has outpaced even Judge Ward’s meticulous ability to govern the influx of big dogs from around the world.
Residents of Marshall welcome the big dogs to their small town. With legislation hogtying personal injury awards, personal injury cases, along with the lawyers and their money have dried up. While other Texas cities are feeling the impact, Marshall has become the new “it” destination, known and feared by infringers everywhere.
One problem associated with the system is that it attracts “patent trolls”, companies that purchase patents, but never manufacture them. The sole purpose of the patent troll is to wait until a large company accidentally starts using a technology in the patent troll’s vast portfolio and demand a settlement. What better place for a patent troll to up the ante than Marshall, Texas? Whereas large companies avoid such suits for fear of a retaliatory infringement counter-claim, patent trolls make nothing, and are therefore immune to an infringement countersuit.
Will another city step in to take the title away from Marshall? With the disdain most federal judge’s show for patent cases, Marshall’s title seems safe for the time being. Will Marshall become a Mecca for patent trolls or struggling inventors? Only time can tell. Whatever happens though, there is no doubt that this little town will remain quite big in the eye of patent holders for quite some time.