Study Finds Patent Claimants Fare Better with Juries

Patent claimants, or patentees, fare better than alleged patent infringers with juries than they do with bench trials, according to a recently published study by Stanford law professor, Mark A. Lemley.

In his study, Professor Lemley, along with co-authors Jamie Kendall and Clint Martin, collected and reviewed data on every patent trial conducted in the United States between January 1, 2000 and June 30, 2011, endeavoring to identify factors that affect patent trial outcomes.

With patent suits continually on the rise, and significantly so since the enactment of the America Invents Act in September 2011, any factor that can increase the likelihood of success in these suits will no doubt be valuable information.

Of the 624 patent trials evaluated, 158 were bench trials and 466 were jury trials. Of the 158 bench trials, 51.3% ruled for the patent claimants, while in the 466 jury trials, 62.9% ruled for the patent claimant. These results led the authors to conclude that patent claimants do, in fact, fare better with juries.

On the other hand, the length of trial did not have an effect on the outcome of patent trials, contrary to conventional wisdom. Patent claimant wins took 7.76 days on average and alleged infringer wins took 7.74 days on average; both had a median of 7 days.

Professor Lemley noted that this result was quite unexpected. "All the patent lawyers I have talked to think that short trials favor patentees, and that long trials where the jury gets bogged down in discussions of prior art, favor defendants. We were surprised to find that wasn't true," advised Professor Lemley by email.

However, analysis regarding the forum in which the patent claimant files suit did produce some interesting results.

First, the study notes that more than 40% of the patent trials in the last 10 years took place in five districts: the Eastern District of Texas, the District of Delaware, the Northern District of California, the Central District of California, and the District of Massachusetts.

Second, the study dispels the widely-held assumption that Eastern District of Texas always votes for patent claimants. Admittedly, juries in that district do find for patent claimants more often than average, found the authors, but they concluded "it is not statistically significant once we consider other factors such as the number of patents, the number of defendants, whether a judge or a jury decided the issue, whether there were non-patent issues in the case, and whether the case resulted in a split decision."

The Northern District of California had a below average jury win rate, but the authors found the result was not statistically significant, partially because there were only a small number of jury trials in that district.

Other interesting results included:

-- Conducting a trial in the Eastern District of Texas, the Central District of California, or the District of Delaware is significantly correlated with a shorter trial.

-- The number of patents per thousand people in the jury pool was significantly correlated with a longer trial.

Thus, the study concludes that are some factors that will, by some measure, serve as a predictor of success -- juries rule more often for patent claimants than judges, and certain districts tend to produce more favorable outcomes for patent claimants, although this second factor's statistical significance is questioned by the study.

Ultimately, given the results regarding the length of trial, and its lack of effect on outcome, the authors make the argument that it may not be necessary for parties to engage in long trials that waste party and judicial resources, when "a quick patent trial may produce the same outcome more quickly and cheaply."

"Hopefully judges and lawyers will see our findings and think about how much time a case really needs," said Lemley.