Intellectual Property

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

Years before Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center built the forty-foot high “Tower of Law” (or, as Stephen Colbert called it, “the building blocks of boring”) out of unused legal reporters, Lexis started the books’ march to obsolescence when it debuted on April 2, 1973. “Lexis,” a term the company’s president coined by combining the Latin word for law plus the letters “IS” for information systems, was the first widely available commercial electronic database for legal research. When it launched forty years ago, Lexis contained only decisions from Ohio and New York. Today, it provides access to nearly 5 billion documents, including cases from all state and federal courts, as well as notes written by law students that are still awaiting their first citation reader. This week, On Remand looks back at the history of Lexis, its rivalry with Westlaw, and its dispute with the maker of a car popular with attorneys . . .

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One of Biglaw’s calling cards is the ability to marshal resources quickly to handle nearly any kind of legal issue. Going to trial and need some immediate help with responding to a host of motions in limine filed by your adversary? Even in these days of reduced associate classes, at most firms it would be no problem roping in the necessary support. Need to put a team together on short notice to respond to a preliminary injunction motion? Not a problem. An email or two to the head of the group and a fellow partner or two, and you can have all the resources you need.

With some luck, you can even benefit from assistance in multiple time zones, always a plus when dealing with court deadlines in “foreign” jurisdictions, as is commonly the case in patent matters. Just ask any East Coast-based patent litigator whether they appreciate the extra hour for filing they get in their Eastern District of Texas matters. I know everyone is super-organized and never files at the last minute, but sometimes “unexpected delays” can result in a litigator making full use of the allotted response time for a filing or two.

While the Biglaw beast can be roused to quick action on occasion, it often prefers to move very deliberately towards a target. Patent cases are a good example. While there may be a flurry of activity surrounding an important hearing, or the close of discovery, or trial, there is also a lot of “preparing the case” time. Cases that take years just to get to trial are normal, and when you factor in appeals, it is not unusual for a Biglaw patent lawyer to go from associate, to counsel, to partner during the pendency of a single case. I speak from personal experience on that point….

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The patent world can at times seem very small. The same firms, representing the same group of technology companies, pursuing the same strategies, both to maximize profits for their firms and to deliver results for their clients. Sure people move around, but the players in the larger sense are pretty static. Most patent cases are of limited importance to everyone but the parties involved as well. Sometimes a case has a broader scope, and becomes of interest to industry competitors or even investors. Every once in a while a patent case captures the public fancy, as Apple v. Samsung undoubtedly has, usually because of the nature of the parties involved or the ubiquity of the technology at issue. When that happens, the patent world can seem very big — global in scope, even.

Sometimes a little case can actually turn into a huge deal. When the Supreme Court gets involved, for example. Especially when the issue in the case has far-reaching economic implications for society at large, and not just for the litigants involved. I have seen a number of “big” patent cases during my career, but none has the disruptive potential of a case that is set for oral argument next week in the Supreme Court. From humble beginnings as a declaratory judgment action filed in an unusual forum for patent cases (District of D.C.,) the dispute between Alice Corp. and CLS Bank has grown into one of the most closely-watched and debated patent cases — ever. And deservedly so, because the viability of software patents is on the line. With major ramifications possible: for technology companies of all sizes, IP firms and lawyers, the courts, and the good old global economy as well….

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Yesterday, one of America’s most famous lawyers died. The repulsive apotheosis of homophobia, Fred Phelps, slithered off his mortal coil surrounded by the physical sensation of hatred and utterly alone… if his own brand of brimstone karmic retribution carries with it even a shred of truth. At any rate, old Fred was a lawyer back in his day. Back in the 70s, he was disbarred for calling a witness a “slut.” Sex is difficult and bewildering for some people.

As a youngster growing up in Kansas, I was familiar with Freddy’s wacky brand of hatred. I think I first encountered him protesting a Pat Robertson speech when I was in high school. Très dada, the 16-year-old me whispered to no one in particular. And so it was that I began to notice Fred Phelps, long before his military funeral protests and his national fame. In college at the University of Kansas, I encountered dozens of his protests. To a homophobe like Fred, Lawrence, Kansas, was Sodom itself. A den of iniquity quite pleased with itself, thank you. And so it was jarring when we all noticed Fred’s choice of attire to keep himself warm during those gross, cretinous, mid-January protests. A KU jacket.

With March Madness upon us and basketball open on another tab of the browser I’m typing on, I say unto you… Rock chalk Jayhawk, let’s talk sports…

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* A Minnesota court ruled that it is not a crime to encourage people to commit suicide. So… keep commenting assholes, just know that you’ll feel really bad if I do it. [Gawker]

* I might be in the market for a used car, and I’m hoping to get a really good deal on one of these “recalled” GMs. I hope the DOJ doesn’t screw up my plans. [Reuters Legal]

* Speaking of cars, Alan Dershowitz calls for vigorous prosecution of reckless drivers. I call for vigorous prosecution of any box-blocking suburbanite who drives around Manhattan on a Saturday like they’re cruising to the country fair. [ABA Journal]

* Alabama thinks that people over 70 should be excused from jury duty. YES, they deserve to be excused and I hope they burn in Hell! [WSJ Law Blog]

* Narc is the new tattletale. [Simple Justice]

* Are you an IP lawyer, especially a patent litigator? Here’s a symposium you should consider attending (featuring ATL columnist Gaston Kroub). [Markman Advisors]

* Speaking of conferences, who wants to hang out with Lat in Las Vegas? Read on for details (plus video)….

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I think you really have to bust your butt.

Eric Bernsen, patent counsel at Knobbe Martens, recalling the hard work that was necessary to get a job at a respected firm after law school. Bernsen graduated magna cum laude from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2012.

Two of my favorites: Jesse Eisenberg and Andy Samberg.

Earlier in the week, I came across an interesting intellectual-property fact pattern in the New York Post. The Post reported on a calendar conflict in which the creator of the Nice Jewish Guys Calendar, an established brand, alleges trademark infringement by a newcomer, the Naughty Jewish Boys Calendar.

I must now confess to a weakness for the Chosen People. I admire them not just for their socioeconomic and educational attainment but for their sex appeal. So I was more than happy to investigate.

Let’s check out the competing calendars, the cease-and-desist letter, and the response thereto — along with some Hebraic hotties, of course….

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Kevin Trudeau

* “How many years would you put a TV pitchman in jail? 3 years? 5 years? Don’t answer yet…” [Sentencing Law and Policy]

* So there’s a sex tape of Chris Christie. Except it isn’t him. They should have known Christie could never be a porn star. You can’t get far in the porn biz by saying, “This lane is closed.” [Gawker]

* Dolt Duped By Date Sues OKCupid. [NY Post]

* Patents are a terrible measure of innovation. Hold on, I defy you to besmirch the Anti-Drowning Hat. [Concurring Opinions]

* Wage theft in fast food shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the role played by the franchise model in creating labor law violations is intriguing. [Lawyers, Guns & Money]

* A gathering of business development tips, including shout outs to Anonymous Partner and Mark Herrmann. [Corporette]

* What better qualification to challenge for the Vegas DA’s job than to be prosecuted by that office days before the election? [Las Vegas Law Blog]

* A Baltimore lawyer aggressively used the habeas process to release mentally ill girls to serve as personal slaves to the wealthy. [Slate]

* Weil’s Business Finance & Restructuring team is putting together a March Madness bracket based on quotes from bankruptcy decisions. Let the excitement wash over you. Having not seen the bracket yet, I’m reserving judgment on what an awesome array of bankruptcy quotes would look like. [Bankruptcy Blog]

* Kevin O’Keefe, who presented on my panel at our Attorney@Blog conference, left all of us touched with his tribute to Above the Law. [Real Lawyers Have Blogs]

* Missouri lawyer is hauled into a disciplinary hearing about his practice of showing a picture of a naked woman to a female client. He says it wasn’t about sex and he was just showing her the kinds of pictures that come up in a divorce proceeding. That sounds like a fine explanation. I mean, every divorce involves autographed photos of strippers. He also commingled funds. That’s less easy to explain. [Inside the Ozarks]

* Hey look! They brought back Debtors’ Prison. The prison-industrial complex has gotta get paid somehow. [Bergen Dispatch]

* Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are now looking into David Samson, the chair of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a Christie appointee. If government agencies aren’t for petty revenge and plunder, then what are they for? [Talking Points Memo]

* Insurance company cronies threaten that insurance company may have to get out of the business because of all the lawyers winning cases making the insurance company actually pay their contractual obligations. Don’t they understand the purpose of litigation is just to collect premiums? [Legal Newsline Legal Journal]

* How ACLU attorney Ben Wizner became Snowden’s lawyer. [Forbes]

* “One of the reasons I could never imagine being a lawyer is because you have to account for your time in 15-minute increments.” Thankfully she was corrected and told that lawyers are actually more irritatingly measured in 6-minute increments. [Dear Prudence / Slate]

* With all the talk of patent law reform coming from the President, this is an excellent time to look back at eight dumb patents. [Mashable]

Watching other lawyers in action is fun. Much more fun than watching myself in action, as I have had the opportunity to do on a number of occasions. Such as during my trial training days, when the instructors decided that making us watch clips of ourselves try and conduct a direct examination was valuable. At least they got a kick out of it. But as edifying as watching video of yourself can be, you can learn a whole lot more by watching other lawyers. This lesson was ingrained in me as far back as my 1L “summer clerkship” in New Jersey state court. I remember the clerks gathering around on motion day to check out arguments in front of other judges, mostly to watch the lawyers in action. Ditto for trials.

Of course, once you enter practice — especially in Biglaw, where opportunities to even get out of the office are hard-earned — it becomes even more important to turn opportunities to watch other advocates into learning experiences. Because of the nature of the cases we were handling, many of which involved Biglaw firms of some repute on both sides, there were plenty of opportunities to watch great lawyers in action. Just as frequently, I was able to watch inexperienced lawyers from great firms struggle to get through routine litigation events. I am sure that many other lawyers were forced to endure my inexperienced attempts to handle those events along the way as well. Experienced lawyers just love sitting through a deposition where the questioner spends an hour getting through the educational background of the witness…

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