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Trial Lawyer's Notebook:
Nationalizing Local Patent Rules



By Tony Zeuli of Merchant & Gould

Tony Zeuli is a trial lawyer specializing in patent and trademark litigation with the IP firm Merchant & Gould. He also has considerable experience before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Tony has given several presentations and published numerous articles on intellectual property litigation, especially patent claim construction. His articles have also appeared in The Federal Lawyer and Bench & Bar. Prior to joining Merchant & Gould, Tony was a physics engineer at Argonne National Laboratory, where he was involved in the study of nuclear physics. Mr. Zeuli can be reached at 612.371.5208, or by email at tzeuli@merchantgould.com, or by visiting his web site at http://www.zeuli.com.


I recently spent some time with a district court judge and several members of our intellectual property bar discussing local rules that pertain to patent cases. Our local bar worked hard to create some specialized rules and scheduling forms that apply only to patent cases. Many other district courts also have their own rules and forms that govern patent cases. Some districts have none. I wonder if we've reached a point where it makes sense to standardize a set of "local" rules for patent cases and implement them in all federal district courts.

I have been around long enough to remember when there were no local rules specific to patent litigation. It wasn't so bad. We survived. However, a good set of rules specific to patent cases can make our lives easier, the court's docket more manageable, and patent cases less expensive. It seemed that the concept of special local rules for patent cases began following the Markman decision. Courts began grappling with having to do claim construction hearings. The Northern District of California was the first district court that I recall having special local rules. Over the years, the number of district courts having such rules has expanded to become the majority. But each court's rules are different. And some courts have no such rules at all.

For example, in the Northern District of California, the parties are required to jointly identify the 10 most significant claim terms in ...

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