Honoring Judge Ronald Whyte

By Hoge Fenton | 04.13.2023 | Firm Announcements

Judge Ronald Whyte (left) and fellow Hoge Fenton Partner Alden Danner (right) were sworn into the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench in 1989.

With heavy hearts, Hoge Fenton announces the passing of retired Senior U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte, a San Jose-based judge nationally recognized for originating the Northern District of California’s patent rules and who was widely referred to as, “the Dean of the Silicon Valley bench.” Whyte sat on the federal bench for 24 years following three years on the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench, passing away at the age of 80.

Whyte was a former partner, longtime colleague, and friend of the firm.

“Judge Whyte was a lawyer’s lawyer who became a judge’s judge,” said Dan Ballesteros, Hoge Fenton’s Managing Shareholder. “His contributions to patent and internet jurisprudence have been immense. He wrote 410 opinions on IP and internet law.”

Born in Pomona, California, Whyte earned an Artium Baccalaureus degree in mathematics from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, in 1964, and a Juris Doctor from the USC Gould School of Law in Los Angeles, California, in 1967. From 1967 to 1968, Whyte worked as a private practitioner in Claremont, California. From 1968 to 1971, he was a lieutenant in the United States Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps. While in the Navy he served as a judge of military courts from 1969 to 1971. From 1971 to 1989, he returned to private practice, working at Hoge Fenton in San Jose, California. Whyte was appointed to the Santa Clara County Superior Court bench in 1989. He was sworn in with fellow Hoge Fenton partner and good friend Alden Danner.

President George H. W. Bush nominated Whyte to the United States District Court seat for the Northern District of California on July 26, 1991. On February 6, 1992, he was confirmed by the United States Senate and received his commission on March 2, 1992. On March 2, 2009, he was promoted to senior status. He became inactive on November 1, 2016.

Judge Whyte developed the Northern District of California’s Local Patent Rules, which have since been adopted by district courts nationwide. Judge Whyte also oversaw the creation of model jury instructions, including patent jury instructions, as well as model protective orders.

Whyte is survived by his spouse Ann Whyte who is a devoted advocate for children. Ann Whyte is a former attorney who represented parents in dependency court and was a longtime Court-Appointed Special Advocate Volunteer and employee. Learn more about Ann Whyte here.

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