"INFRINGED? CALL 1-800-PATENT-L: THE 'L' STANDS FOR LAWSUIT!" In Marshall Texas, it appears that there is a stampede (I couldn't resist) of personal injury (PI) attorneys turning to patent litigation. With tort reform cutting into PI firm revenue, lawyers are now retooling practices to include patent litigation as a main staple (see Alan Cohen's article in IP Law & Business here).
Patent litigation is booming in Marshall, home of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The Marshall court has a reputation for speedy litigation, judges that welcome patent cases, and (most importantly) plaintiff-friendly juries. The number of patent cases filed in Marshall jumped from 58 in 2003 to 110 in 2004, with another 115 filed this year through September.
Since 1994, patent owners have prevailed in 88 percent of all jury trials and 75 percent of bench trials in Marshall, according to a survey by LegalMetric, a St. Louis company that analyzed the patent cases tried in the courtrooms of the current judges. Nationwide, these figures are 68 percent for jury trials and 47 percent for bench trials.
Even the Texas State Bar is even getting in on the action. Realizing that tort reform has dampened many personal injury practices, the State Bar is turning lawyers to the next-best-thing:
Even if the outside lawyers stay put, referrals may get harder to come by if more tort reform sends more tort lawyers looking for patent work. New legislation passed this year is expected to limit the number of asbestos suits brought in Texas, says Rodriguez of the Texas State Bar. Rodriguez's organization is holding three seminars over the next six months that will focus on helping trial lawyers transition their practices.
Filling up those seats, it appears, isn't going to be a problem. "I'll run into med mal opponents at a cocktail party," says Smith, "and they're all getting into commercial litigation." Introducing Andy Tindel, a fellow personal injury lawyer turned commercial litigator at a seminar recently, Smith put it this way: "Andy is like the rest of us in East Texas -- he specializes in what's left."