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Episode description:

In this episode of Law, disrupted, John joins the Honorable Alan D. Albright, United States District Judge for Western District of Texas, Waco Division. After less than four years as a federal judge, Judge Albright now hears more patent cases than any other judge in the United States, with a docket that includes 25% of all patent cases in the country.

Judge Albright predicts what the next big technology battleground in patent cases will be, shares advice for lawyers who are interested in practicing patent law and offers tips for attorneys who practice before him.

To start the discussion, Judge Albright describes his years of experience as a patent litigator and how that experience shaped his approach to management of his patent docket. Judge Albright explains how speed in moving patent cases to trial has led his courtroom to become a preferred venue for patent plaintiffs. He and John then discuss how he has been able to attract clerks with technical backgrounds and experience with patent law and how he consulted with patent lawyers from a wide range of firms to come up with rules for litigating patent cases that he hopes are objectively fair to all sides. Judge Albright explains why he believes that it is essential to stay all discovery until after the Markman hearing.

Together, Judge Albright and John dissect the factors that make Texas a fertile venue (both Eastern District and Western District) for patent litigation. Discussing the Alice test and section 101 patent eligibility issues, Judge Albright shares his thoughts on where there is adequate certainty from the federal circuit on such issues, and where further guidance and clarity is needed. He and John then discuss the circumstances when it is beneficial to appoint a technical advisor on a case and when it is less beneficial.  Judge Albright also discusses his utilization of magistrate judges. 

The conversation turns to Judge Albright’s goals for adjudicating cases expeditiously and the changes that he has introduced to his Standard Order Governing proceedings in his Court. Judge Albright also describes the short-term and permanent changes to the litigation process resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, including his shift to using Zoom for virtually all pretrial hearings and, in some instances for trial witnesses. 

John and the judge then explore Judge Albright’s “dialog” with the Federal Circuit on venue issues, including how one writ of mandamus quickly grew to eight or more.  They cover Judge Albright’s approach to deciding when a case should be heard in Austin, as opposed to Waco and how Judge Albright handles cases that are transferred from Waco to Austin.  They then discuss Judge Albright’s views on when a case should or should not be stayed in favor of IPR proceedings.

The conversation then shifts to what Judge Albright believes will be the next big technology battleground for patent cases: electric cars and the aspects of that technology that make it ripe for patent litigation.

Finally, Judge Albright gives advice to young lawyers interested in going into the patent field, including what qualities patent lawyers should have if they do not have a technical background. He also gives advice to lawyers who practice before him: learn to work with the other side.

Published: May 18 2022

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