On Wednesday, November 3, 2021, the White House announced President Biden’s nomination of Judge Leonard P. Stark (U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware) to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. If approved, Judge Stark will succeed Judge Kathleen M. O’Malley, who recently announced that she will retire in March 2022.
Judge Stark has served as a U.S. District Court Judge since 2010 and held the position of Chief Judge for the District of Delaware from July 2014 to June 2021. Judge Stark presided over more than 2500 patent cases throughout his career. He oversaw a significant influx of more than 1000 patent cases to Delaware since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2017 Decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC that limited venue in patent cases to jurisdictions where defendants reside or have a regular and established place of business. The TC Heartland decision resulted in a significant shift in cases from the Eastern District of Texas to jurisdictions such as the District of Delaware, where many companies are incorporated, and the Northern District of California, where many companies are located. In an interesting twist, Judge Stark presided over the initial TC Heartland case that eventually found its way to the Supreme Court.
In addition to the TC Heartland case, Judge Stark has handled numerous important cases as they worked their way through the court system. For example, in American Axle Mfg., Inc v. Neapco Holdings LLC, Judge Stark found an American Axle patent covering a method of manufacturing a car part invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 because it claims a law of nature. The Federal Circuit upheld his ruling and that case is now at the Supreme Court.
Judge Stark is also known for being creative in his approach to patent cases, including initiating novel “Section 101 Days” where he and other judges have heard arguments relating to patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 on multiple cases at the same time.
In addition to his District Court duties, Judge Stark has sat by designation on both the Third Circuit and the Federal Circuit. At the Federal Circuit, he participated in the original In re: Aqua Products, Inc. decision.