Well, at least business is booming somewhere: The plaintiff-friendly federal courts in the Eastern District of Texas saw a dramatic jump in the number of patent lawsuits filed, from 607 in 2011 to 1,263 in 2012 - a 108 percent increase in just a year.
The doubling of patent cases in that district is a direct result of a provision in the America Invents Act (AIA), which prohibits patent owners from suing several defendants at once for separate acts of infringement. The AIA's supporters had hoped that the high cost of suing infringers separately would deter patent trolls, otherwise known as "patent owners who don't manufacture products based on their patented invention but peskily insist on enforcing their patent rights nonetheless."
And there's a loophole the AIA didn't manage to prevent: Plaintiffs may be required to file a separate lawsuit against each alleged infringer, but once those suits are filed, they can request that multiple cases be consolidated for pretrial purposes - a request that's often granted so the courts can handle the workload.
With the AIA's biggest change yet to come next month - namely, the switch to a First-to-File patent system - it will be interesting to see what other unintended consequences the AIA produces...and how smart patent attorneys find a way to work around them to their clients' advantage.