Patent Law Federalism

68 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2013 Last revised: 24 Apr 2014

Paul R. Gugliuzza

Boston University School of Law

Date Written: April 23, 2014


Most lawsuits arising under federal law can be filed in either state or federal court. Patent suits, however, may be filed only in federal court. Why do patent cases receive exceptional treatment? The usual answer is that federal courts, unlike state courts, provide uniformity and expertise in patent matters. This Article analyzes whether exclusive jurisdiction actually serves those policy aims and concludes that the uniformity-expertise rationale is overstated. If exclusive federal patent jurisdiction is to be justified, attention must also be given to pragmatic considerations, such as the respective quality of state and federal trial courts, the courts’ ability to manage complex civil litigation, and the preclusive effects of state court judgments. By reconstructing the theoretical framework for exclusive federal patent jurisdiction, this Article yields normative insights for institutional policy more broadly. Most importantly, it suggests that legislative repeals of exclusive jurisdiction — in any field of law — will be ineffective because litigants, even if given a choice, will prefer the federal courts over inexperienced and unfamiliar state courts.

Suggested Citation

Gugliuzza, Paul R., Patent Law Federalism (April 23, 2014). Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2014, p. 11; Boston Univ. School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 14-6. Available at SSRN:

Paul R. Gugliuzza (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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