The Northern District of California is a different court today than it was last week: Effective as of November 1, Senior District Judge Ronald M. Whyte has stepped down from the bench and assumed inactive status after serving over 24 years on the federal bench. Judge Whyte will leave a lasting mark on the Northern District and on intellectual property law more broadly based on his leadership in developing the patent local rules and many notable IP decisions, among other things. He has been widely recognized and praised by practitioners, academics, and other judges. As quoted in the court’s notice of his departure, Chief Judge Hamilton stated:
Judge Whyte has anchored the San Jose Division of our court for nearly a quarter century as a colleague of vast ability who did so much for the court above and beyond managing his substantial caseload. He helped this court and, by example, other courts, deliver outstanding, innovative service in the field of intellectual property litigation with innovative patent rules, model orders and jury instructions. He also supported the court in areas such as space and security; it is hard to imagine the San Jose courthouse without Judge Whyte. His outstanding accomplishments in the fields of patent and IP litigation are all the more remarkable for the fact that, like all federal judges, he has been a generalist with a large caseload comprising the full scope of case types filed in our court. We will miss him greatly.
Judge Whyte was already a titan when this blog started, but we have had the privilege to read and report on his more recent decisions. To help celebrate Judge Whyte’s retirement and his continuing legacy, we take a look back at some of our prior posts: In Evolutionary Intelligence v. Sprint, Judge Whyte sought a fair solution to the IPR “free rider” problem by conditioning a stay on the non-petitioning defendant’s agreement to be estopped by the IPRs, but only as to invalidity arguments actually raised. In Radware v. A10 Networks, the defendants’ bringing of declaratory judgment counterclaims entitled them to summary judgment of non-infringement as to patent claims the plaintiff no longer sought to assert. An avid tennis player, Judge Whyte played some “judicial tennis” in Integrated Global Concepts v. j2 Global by sending a case back to the Central District for trial of patent claims after resolving the contract dispute, because he found that Judge Pregerson had more familiarity with the patent issues. And Judge Whyte issued one of Northern District’s first post-Alice decisions in Cogent Medicine v. Elsevier, which has since been cited many times for its analysis invalidating on § 101 grounds a patent claiming personal libraries of medical literature.
The San Jose courthouse marked Judge Whyte’s retirement with another change. The newly named Ronald M. Whyte Attorney Lounge is a small reminder that, even though he is no longer presiding over cases, his influence will continue to be felt.
We at the blog join in congratulating Judge Whyte on an illustrious career and a well-deserved retirement.