Senior Judge Ronald M. Whyte Takes Inactive Status November 1, 2016

Senior District Judge Ronald M. Whyte has stepped down from the bench and assumed inactive status effective November 1, 2016.  

The Honorable Ronald M. Whyte was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on March 2, 1992. Prior to his appointment to the federal bench, Judge Whyte served from 1989-92 as Judge of the Superior Court of the State of California for Santa Clara County. Before taking the bench, Judge Whyte spent 18 years in private practice in San Jose (1971-89) and three years in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps (1968-71). Judge Whyte received his B.A. in mathematics from Wesleyan University in 1964 and his J.D. from the University of Southern California School of Law in 1967.

Judge Whyte’s current professional activities include serving on the Dean of Santa Clara Law School’s High Tech Advisory Council (2001-present); Executive Committee Santa Clara Inn of Court (1992-2013; President 1997-1998); Patent Rules Committee for the Northern District of California (1996-present); Patent Jury Instruction Committee for the Northern District of California (2000-present); and Member of the National Jury Instruction Project (2008-2009). In addition to managing a substantial caseload as a judge of the Northern District, Judge Whyte has sat by designation on panels of both the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and authored highly-regarded published opinions in both courts.  

Judge Whyte has received numerous awards, including:

  • Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association’s Judge of the Year Award (1992);
  • Berkeley Center for Law and Technology’s Distinguished Service Award (2001);
  • Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association’s Federal Judge of the Year Award (2003); Santa Clara County Trial Lawyers Association’s Special Recognition Award (2009); and the
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sedona Conference (2013).  

In his years as a federal district judge, Judge Whyte emerged as a leading expert on patent and technology litigation. He led the development of model jury instructions and innovative patent rules and model protective orders and lectured on intellectual property litigation nationally.

Outside of work, Judge Whyte is an avid life-long tennis player as well as a devotee of the theater, photography, gardening and travel. He is also a loyal and enthusiastic fan of the San Jose Sharks, the Golden State Warriors and the Oakland A's.

Diane Doolittle, a partner at Quinn Emmanuel Urquart & Sullivan LLP and one of Judge Whyte's first two law clerks when he joined the federal bench in 1992, writes of Judge Whyte:

"Judge Whyte is a great judge and a great man. Those who appeared before him saw how smart and fair and wise he is. His law clerks saw that and more. He is intensely devoted to doing justice. He treated everyone with respect and dignity. He approached his work with humility, even as the accolades kept coming in. He inspired and mentored dozens of lawyers who had the privilege to work with or appear before him. Selfishly, those of us who know him best would like to see him continue, but recognize that even in his retirement, his impressive legacy and considerable impact will remain."

Mark Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School and partner at Durie Tangri in San Francisco who is an expert in the fields of intellectual property and antitrust writes: 

"Judge Whyte is the dean of the Silicon Valley bench.  He has been involved in most of the cases that shaped IP and technology law.  And he has worked tirelessly to improve the law.  He was the moving force behind both the Patent Local Rules and the Model Patent Jury Instructions, two efforts pioneered here in the Northern District of California that the rest of the country has since sought to emulate.  

Judge Whyte is both thoughtful and humble. His contributions to the law have been enormous, but you'll never hear that from him."

Edward Reines, a partner at Weil Gotshal specializing in patent litigation who has worked closely with Judge Whyte on the court's Patent Rules Advisory Committee recalls that when Judge Whyte was appointed to the federal bench, he audited a law school class on patent law to be sure he would be ready for that part of his caseload — and ready he was. Of Judge Whyte's presence in the courtroom, Reines notes: "Judge Whyte possesses a model judicial temperament — an endearing blend of modesty, patience, intellect, and even-handedness."

Ragesh Tangri, a San Francisco intellectual property litigator, notes: "For over two decades Judge Whyte has exemplified many of the best qualities of the judges of the Northern District: diligence, fairness, humility, modeling and inspiring the treatment of everyone involved in the justice system with courtesy and respect, and perhaps above all practicality." As an example, Tangri recalls a case in which Judge Whyte allowed him to move for judgment on the pleadings to present a section 101 defense. It was an innovation that was later ruled procedurally correct in a different case by the United States Supreme Court and is now becoming popular with patent litigators across the country.    

Chief Judge Phyllis H. Hamilton says of Judge Whyte's departure from the bench:

"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's pending cases have been reassigned to other judges effective November 1, 2016.