Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bits on patents

From the Southeast Texas Record the notoriously patent plaintiff-friendly court, venue the US Eastern Texas District of Texas, has long some of its fangs:

The country's most active patent docket, the U.S. Eastern District of Texas, took a swing toward defendants when The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a powerful writ of mandamus against the East Texas court for its lack of consideration for forum convenience.

The ruling, according to legal experts across the country, has already changed the pace of patent case filings in East Texas, a small legal outpost known for its expertise in patent legislation, but also known for its plaintiff-friendly juries and courts.

"The rocket docket engine has either slowed down or shut off completely," Strand said. The East Texas court was a famed "rocket docket" for the rapid pace that it processed cases, most favorably for plaintiffs.

Though patent experts don't think a court as powerful as the Eastern Texas District will reemerge, the author notes that Delaware is pretty friendly towards plaintiffs in patent cases. Interestingly enough, it looks like the Delaware Attorney General's office is a Biden property, and the Bidens sure love cramming intellectual property down people's throats:

Delaware has emerged in recent years as a very popular venue for plaintiffs' attorneys in a variety of civil cases, particularly since Democratic Attorney General Beau Biden took office.

A USA Today story in 2008 noted Biden worked for a large plaintiff firm before becoming attorney general. His father, now Vice President Joe Biden, has a long history of backing plaintiffs' rights to try their case, often working to kill tort reform legislation.

The Bidens' campaign accounts have both benefited from large donations by trial lawyers and their related political action committees. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, employees at three law firms that specialize in asbestos litigation were among Beau Biden's top 10 all-time contributors.

In other not-so-unrelated patent news, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the Bilski case, which would revisit the question of whether software and business methods are patentable. Likely future Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor has a largely pro-intellectual property rights history, and her decisions seem to lean towards favoring IP rights holders. And there's this disturbingly idiotic conclusion that she once reached:

As a federal trial judge in New York in 1997, Judge Sotomayor sided with producers of the "Seinfeld" TV show, ruling that a book of trivia based on the show effectively stole the show's material.

" 'The Seinfeld Aptitude Test' seizes upon the notion which lies at the very heart of 'Seinfeld' that there is humor in the mundane, seemingly trivial aspects of everyday life," Judge Sotomayor wrote. "Simply put, without 'Seinfeld' there can be no 'Seinfeld Aptitude Test.' "

I'm not sure of the source on this, but I remember hearing that the perennial Patent Reform Act of [current year] might be put on the back burner pending a Supreme Court ruling. I'm not sure which would be a more pro-reform venue – the Supreme Court or Congress – though the movement does seem to have a bit more momentum this year than I remember it having, so we'll see.

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