Patent cases are very specialized and complicated. Attorneys who do not specialize in patent law often struggle to understand its rules. The same is true for judges who have not spent their careers specializing in patent law. For that reason, a few decades ago, Congress created the Federal Circuit, a special Court of Appeals where all patent appeals go.
The federal system consists of courts administered by the national government, while state courts are administered by state governments. The Federal Circuit, the appellate court for patents, is within the federal (as opposed to the state) system of courts.
In Texas, an individual litigant sued his former law firm, on the theory that their legal malpractice had cost him victory in a patent case. Specifically, he argued that if his former attorneys had asserted a defense called “experimental use,” which they failed to assert, his patent claim would have been successful. He sued his former law firm in Texas state court, not in federal court.
Based on recent decisions of the Federal Circuit, the Texas state courts held that even a legal malpractice claim had to be brought in federal court and any appeal of that claim would go to the Federal Circuit, as long as the underlying malpractice theory for the claim involved patent law. For that reason, the Texas state courts refused to hear the legal malpractice claim, because it was based on patent law.
The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court reversed. It held that except under very unusual circumstances, it was unnecessary to bring a legal malpractice claim based on patent law in federal court. The case was decided on 2/20/13 and is styled Gunn v. Minton.