A patent case is, in many ways, like other civil cases. In most patent cases, the plaintiff files a complaint alleging infringement. The defendant answers the complaint, alleging noninfringement and asserting various defenses, and potentially makes counterclaims of its own. The parties proceed to fact and expert discovery, motion practice, pre-trial briefing, and trial.
As in any litigation, the time necessary for each pre-trial phase varies with the complexity and potential consequences of the issues presented. There are, however, various unique aspects of patent litigation for which case characteristics and management approaches significantly affect the pre-trial timeline. Key among these are the complexity of the legal issues, the intricacy of the technology at issue, and the volume of highly sensitive technical documents, source code and other information exchanged during discovery.
Due to the many challenges posed by patent cases, many district courts and district judges have developed specialized PLRs to streamline discovery, require parties to disclose and narrow contentions, and facilitate claim construction. These rules produce joint, sequenced, staged, and timely disclosure of critical information without the need for significant judicial oversight.