- Supreme Court tackling patent law in several cases this term [Sartori and Aga, WLF; Richard Epstein; Kristen Osenga/Prawfs] New fee-shifting regime announced in Octane Fitness already bringing relief to litigants [Ars Technica on Lumen View/FindTheBest case]
- Copyright claims on intrinsically newsworthy material: curious claim concerning suicide note [Eugene Volokh] “Is it copyright infringement to post a lawyer’s cease-and-desist letter?” Australian university seems to think so [same]
- Fate of Prenda Law model spirals downward [Ars Technica, Volokh, EFF]
- Comedian Adam Carolla has “decided to make himself the focus of the Personal Audio suit against podcasters.” [Steven Malanga]
- Why, as a textbook author, Alex Tabarrok has concluded copyright law is out of control [Marginal Revolution]
- Remembering when patent examiners were celebrities (in the 19th Century) [Slate]
- Someone sends Jim Harper a dubious DMCA takedown notice, and this is his response [Cato]
Newegg fights a patent assertion entity:
Most companies choose not to recover their legal fees in patent suits because prevailing defendants are required to demonstrate that a plaintiff acted in bad faith. This is extremely difficult to prove and it’s usually easier to just walk away and count your losses – unless your name is [Newegg chief legal officer] Lee Cheng…
Thanks to the efforts of Lee Cheng and his legal team, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a trial court to reconsider its earlier denial of Newegg’s request for attorneys’ fees and costs in the patent infringement lawsuit brought on by SUS. Newegg pursued justice in the matter because it is consistent with our corporate mission of bringing the benefits of technology and technology products to our valued customers. And, when defendants settle these frivolous claims, it’s always the customer that ends up paying. We care too much about our loyal customers to subject them to paying these trolls.
The defendant in the Duluth doctor-rating defamation case that we recounted here and here “told the Star Tribune he spent the equivalent of two years’ income, some of which he had to borrow from relatives who supplied the money by raiding their retirement funds.” The Minnesota Supreme Court eventually ruled that his comments were protected opinion. The doctor/plaintiff, for his part, spent $60,000 pursuing the suit. [Twin Cities Business]
The same article, a “Lawsuits of the Year 2013″ feature, also recounts how a couple under the influence of “sovereign citizen” teachings “filed more than $250 billion in liens, and other claims, against those they considered the cause of their problems, including [Hennepin County Sheriff Rich] Stanek, county attorneys and other court officials. The liens were filed against vehicles, houses and even mineral rights.” When Stanek went to refinance his property, he discovered he had been hit with $25 million in liens which took “several years” to remove entirely. The husband of the couple was sent to prison.
- Court will hear case of mariner charged with Sarbanes-Oxley records-destruction violation for discarding undersized fish [Jonathan Adler, Eugene Volokh, Daniel Fisher]
- SCOTUS goes 9-0 for wider patent fee shifting in Octane Fitness v. ICON and Highmark v. Allcare Health Management System Inc. [Ars Technica, ABA Journal, earlier]
- Constitutional principle that Washington must not give some states preference over others could face test in New Jersey NCAA/gambling case [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Supreme Court grants certiorari in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, a class action procedure case on CAFA removal [Donald Falk, Mayer Brown Class Defense Blog]
- “Supreme Court’s Daimler decision makes it a good year for general jurisdiction clarity” [Mark Moller, WLF, earlier] Decision calls into question “the jurisdictional basis for this country’s litigation hellholes” [Beck]
- How liberals learned to love restrictive standing doctrine [Eugene Kontorovich, more]
- “California Shouldn’t Be Able to Impose Regulations on Businesses Outside of California” [Ilya Shapiro on cert petition in Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey (fuel standards)]
A court has awarded costs against a Dublin family that sued a restaurant for not warning that if they allowed their two-year-old to put her finger down the metal lid of a sugar dispenser, she might have trouble pulling it out again. The balky lid had to be cut off at a hospital. [Mirror]
The vote was 325 to 91, with Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Mel Watt (D-N.C.) leading the opposition. Timothy Lee discusses in the Washington Post. While I haven’t tried to get into the details, the general drift looks quite good to me. One major provision requires those filing suits to plead with some specificity what the infringement is; another provides for losing parties to compensate prevailing parties toward the cost of the litigation in more cases; yet another attempts to forestall expensive discovery in cases destined to fail on other grounds. Readers who recall my first book, The Litigation Explosion, will recall that I recommended procedural reform as the most promising way to address the incentives to overlitigiousness in our legal system and in particular identified lack of fee shifting, anything-goes pleadings, and wide-open discovery as among the system’s key deficits. So, yes, developments like this make me feel I was on the right track.
Equal time dept.: Richard Epstein takes a different view.
Prevailing parties in patent suits can win attorneys’ fees from losing opponents in cases deemed “exceptional.” “Under the test used to identify exceptional cases, cases must be objectively baseless and brought in bad faith.” That is already a painfully narrow exception, allowing for large volumes of poorly founded litigation, but two cases before the Supreme Court this term may provide clarity on when courts can deem cases “exceptional” and suitable for a fee shift. Broader use of fee shifts — presumably by way of deeming at least some swath of losing cases “exceptional” — would be one way of addressing the patent troll problem that would not call for new legislation. [ABA Journal, related, Corporate Counsel (arguments that judiciary can deal with trolls on its own]
In other developments, the Federal Trade Commission has voted to proceed with an inquiry into the patent troll problem [New York Times] and the Government Accountability Office has released a long-awaited report on the issue [Mike Hogan and Gregory Hillyer, Legal Intelligencer]
- “The Web’s longest nightmare ends: Eolas’ patents are dead on appeal” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica]
- Another E.D. Tex. jury: “Lawyer Explains How To Bag A Patent Troll At Trial” [Daniel Fisher]
- Practical steps? “Trolling Effects” database modeled on “Chilling Effects”. Prior art clearinghouse [Joel Spolsky] Vermont, Nebraska AGs rattle sabers on behalf of local businesses [WaPo]
- Meanwhile, from the other side: “The Myth of the ‘Patent Troll’ Litigation Explosion” [Adam Mossoff, Truth on the Market] “A Line in the Sand on the Calls for New Patent Legislation” [Wayne Sobon, Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property; CPIP video interviews with retired Federal Circuit Chief Judge Paul Michel and retired Federal Circuit Judge Arthur Gajarsa]
- Grocers, restaurants, retailers enter fray with anti-troll ad campaign [David Balto/U.S. News, Katy Bachman/AdWeek, Food Marketing Institute]
- Manhattan Institute weighs in with “Trial Lawyers Inc.” entry [Point of Law; Jim Copland, Politico]
- When “set up as shell companies without much in assets” trolls might not be likely targets for fee recovery at lawsuit’s end; and what’s this about offshore bank accounts? [Todd Moore]
More coverage for the Frank Buckley-edited new book on overlegalization, The American Disease [Richard Reinsch/Library of Law and Liberty, Alejandro Chafuen/Forbes] Here’s Buckley in the National Post:
If litigation rates are four times smaller in Canada than the United States, this should not occasion surprise: Subsidize something and you get more of it; penalize it and you get less of it.
Differences in legal ethics matter, too. In America, more than elsewhere, lawyers are encouraged to advance their client’s interests without regard to the interests of justice in the particular case or broader social concerns. American lawyers’ professional culture is unique in permitting and implicitly encouraging them to assert novel theories of recovery, coach witnesses, and wear down their opponents through burdensome pretrial discovery.