Why Companies Outside the U.S. Should Consider The California Central District Court for their U.S. Intellectual Property Disputes

The United States District Court for the Central District of California (CACD) has emerged over the past decade as a major hot spot for intellectual property (IP) litigation. The CACD may in fact be one of the best places in the world for international companies to handle their intellectual property disputes. A recent study by Stanford Law Professor Mark A. Lemley found that CACD experienced the greatest number of litigated patent cases in the country from 2000 to 2010, at 2,289 cases.
This blog entry will mark the first in a multi-part series charting the growth of patent, copyright, and trademark filings in the CACD, and outlining the most important considerations for companies pursuing their intellectual property disputes in the CACD.

I. Largest Total Number of Intellectual Property Dispute Filings in the U.S., if Not the World
As mentioned above, the CACD experienced the greatest number of litigated patent cases in the U.S. from 2000 to 2010, at 2,289 cases. From 2011-2013, the stream if patent case filings in the CACD has maintained a breakneck pace, averaging 285 patent filings per year. This trend is also apparent for copyright and trademark filings which are as varied in subject matter in the CACD as patent cases.

Because of the enormous number of intellectual property cases heard in the CACD, its judges have gained a reputation for skill and efficiency in the area of intellectual property law. In particular, the CACD has evolved into a hotbed for patent litigation. A historic leader in IP litigation, Los Angeles County took the national lead in patent, trademark and copyright filings for the past several decades due to the experience and impartiality of its judges, its speedy trial dispositions, and its diverse jury pools. Home to sunny coastlines, a temperate climate, and bustling creative industries, the Los Angeles area may have also sustained itself as a hub of IP litigation activity as a result of its unique natural beauty, rich economy, and wealth of cultural attractions.

II. Time to Resolution
The percentage of patent cases that resulted in trial in the CACD averaged only 1.5% in 2010. While some parties are prepared to withstand lengthy court battles and prefer to reach the trial stage, a greater percentage prefer to settle their disputes out of court and save the expense and risk of protracted litigation. For this latter group, the rapid average time to resolution and the flexible alternative dispute resolution system of the CACD are preferable to many other jurisdictions in the country.

Indeed, litigants on both ends of a dispute are generally interested in administrative efficiency. The speedy resolution of a lawsuit ensures the conservation of limited judicial resources while lessening the burden on the pocketbooks of litigants. Because intellectual property rights can have a limited lifespan, an expedient system also maximizes the commercial value of those limited rights by eliminating uncertainties and minimizing the threat of future litigation.

Luckily, the CACD boasts one of the most rapid average times to resolution in the country, at .89 years. This figure, for example, represents a ~40% decrease in disposition time relative to the Eastern District of Texas (1.24 years), which has had a IP-favorable reputation in the past.

For other jurisdictions throughout the United States with less exposure to patent, trademark and copyright cases, courts find it difficult to strike the right balance between deciding cases quickly and deciding them equitably. Because the CACD sees more IP filings than any other district in the country, even cases that are resolved quickly are more likely to be resolved accurately.