Chief Judge Paul Michel pronounced the state of the Court to be “very good” in his State of the Court message delivered on June 28th to the 9th Federal Circuit Bar Association Bench & Bar Conference in Cambridge, Maryland (link). While Judge Michel was upbeat about the court's capability to handle existing cases, there was some concern over the increase of complex cases:
Several trends, visible over the last ten years that add to the court’s workload have continued. Filings of patent infringement appeals, for example, have steadily increased. Even more significantly, patent cases have become more complex and hence time-consuming. Meanwhile, MSPB cases, which tend to be much simpler, and were previously the largest portion of pending cases, no longer are. At the end of May, our pendencies were: veterans: 420; patent infringement: 343; and personnel 241. Total filings have been rising steadily, if modestly. Thus, our docket continues to grow, with an increasing proportion of difficult cases.We have been hearing more appeals, more rapidly, by scheduling more panels each month. From September through June, a different visiting district judge has sat with the court each month. Two will sit during July, August, and September. In fact, visiting judges have been scheduled through the summer of 2008.
CAFC Statistics Page: The CAFC also released a statistics page for 1997-2006 (link). The statistics are broken down into the following listings:
Appeals Filed, by Category, FY 2006 (link) - patent (29%) and trademark (2%) cases make up 31% of the CAFC's workload.
Adjudications by Merits Panels, by Category, FY 2006 (link) - Patent (33%) and Trademark (1%) cases make up 34% of adjudications.
Appeals Filed and Terminated, by Category, FY 2006 (link) - 453 patent appeals were filed from the district courts, with 259 being adjudicated on the merits (57%); 42 patent appeals were filed from the USPTO, with 17% being adjudicated on the merits (40%).
Appeals Terminated on the Merits, FY 2006 (link) - of the district court cases (which include some non-patent cases), 60% were affirmed on the merits (167 of 278), 20% were affirmed-in-part (56 of 278), and 13% were reversed (36 of 278).
Ten Year Historical Caseload 1997-2006 (link) - about 400 appeals were filed in 1997 and 2001 for district court cases (both patent and non-patent). The number of filings have increased steadily since then, to about 525 for FY 2006
Historical Patent Filings 1997-2007 (link) - in 1997, 330 patent infringement appeals were filed. In 2006, the number of patent infringement appeals reached 453 (tying the number of cases heard in 2002). In 2007, 429 patent infringement appeals are projected.
Historical Caseload 1983-2006 (link) - in 2006, almost 1800 appeals were filed. While there is an upward trend in the caseload, the largest caseload continues to be 1985, where over 2400 appeals were filed.