' Gregory Fantin | MTTLR

The Rise and Fall of a Patent Boomtown

Plano, Texas used to be home to the third oldest Apple store ever built. This Dallas suburb’s median household income of $92,121 is 55% above the national average. The eventual construction of Apple’s 500 locations worldwide was in some ways a result of its early success in Plano.   However, in February of 2019, Apple decided to close not only its Plano store but also a location in the neighboring town of Frisco. While a couple retail stores closing may be a common occurrence, the reason these two stores closed is quite unusual.   The City of Marshall, Litigation Empire   It may be surprising to hear that 44% of the country’s patent cases were litigated in the Eastern District of Texas. This figure is mostly thanks to the small town of Marshall, Texas. Despite having a small population of 25,000 people, 25% of the entire country’s patent litigation was once filed in this unlikely destination.   The reason for this magnitude of cases was largely due to a single person: Judge T. John Ward. Judge Ward served as a United States District Court Judge in the Eastern District of Texas from 1999 to 2011, and patent cases were his specialty. Judge Ward was shocked by the length and complexity of patent cases, so he focused on “speeding up the process;” Judge Ward set page limits on the motions in his patent cases, punished lawyers who he thought “abuse(d) the discovery proceedings,” and even resorted to “using a chess clock to keep strict time limits” on lawyers’ speaking time.   As time went on, Judge Ward’s courtroom became known...