Science

(c) Image by Juri H. Chinchilla.

One hundred years ago yesterday, Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died at the age of twenty-nine in the Cincinnati Zoo. This week, On Remand looks back at the fate of the passenger pigeon, the legal implications of efforts to resurrect the bird and other extinct species, and the courtroom drama over a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.

Passenger pigeons once numbered in the billions and were the most abundant bird in the United States. Seventeenth century observers reported “countless numbers” of passenger pigeons whose massive flocks took hours to pass overhead. But by the early 1900s, no passenger pigeons remained in the wild.  Habitat loss due to deforestation and overhunting hastened the species’ rapid decline. (The sport of trapshooting originally used live passenger pigeons, but later adopted clay pigeons due to the decline and extinction of the bird.) Recognizing the plight of the passenger pigeon and humanity’s role in causing it, late 19th century conservationists and lawmakers made efforts to protect and repopulate the species. But it was too late…

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Supreme Court Sets New Indefiniteness Standard

In Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., Appeal No. 13-169, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded Federal Circuit’s reversal of summary judgment because the Federal Circuit’s definiteness standard was too lenient.

Biosig filed a patent infringement suit claiming Nautilus’ exercise machines infringed its patent. Biosig’s patent claims a heart rate monitor that includes a “live” electrode and “common” electrode “mounted . . . in spaced relationship with each other.” The district court granted Nautilus’ motion for summary judgment on the basis the claim term “in spaced relationship with each other” failed the definiteness requirement of 35 U.S.C. § 112, second paragraph. The Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, finding a patent claim meets the definiteness threshold so long as the claim is “amenable to construction” and the claim is not “insolubly ambiguous.”

The Supreme Court held the Federal Circuit’s test does not satisfy the statute’s definiteness requirement and can leave courts without a reliable compass. The Court held a patent is invalid for indefiniteness if its claims, read in light of the specification and the prosecution history, fail to inform, with reasonable certainty, those skilled in the art about the scope of the invention. The Court emphasized this standard not only takes into account the inherent limitations of language, but also requires a patent must be precise enough to afford clear notice of what is claimed. The Court vacated and remanded to the Federal Circuit for reconsideration under the proper standard.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Federal Circuit Review – Nautilus, Limelight, and Alice (July 2014)”

Innumerable are the lawyers who explain that they picked law over a technical field because they have a “math block” — “law students as a group, seem peculiarly averse to math and science.” But it’s increasingly concerning, because of the extraordinary rate of scientific and other technological advances that figure increasingly in litigation.

– Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, lamenting lawyers’ aversion to math and science in a recent opinion where he admonished both the attorneys and lower court judges for their failure to cite medical evidence in their briefs.

* In the Western District of Arkansas, judges have to forfeit judicial immunity to go to the bathroom. So if you want to sue a judge, you need to catch them when their pants are literally down. [Hercules and the Umpire]

* Bowman v. Monsanto… in GIFs! [EffYeahSCOTUS]

* Cooley boy makes good! President Obama nominated Christopher Thomas, a Cooley Law School grad and professor, to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. [White House]

* A judge threw out the fine against a New York artist as unconstitutionally harsh. The artist took an antenna from the trash and cops impounded his car and fined him $2,000. [Thompson Reuters News & Insight]

* The Ninth Circuit struck down Arizona’s “Fetal Pain” Abortion Ban. Sounds like a viable decision. [PrawfsBlawg]

* Work/life balance is when lawyers with kids throw their childless colleagues under a bus. [Slate]

* If you’re reading transcripts of old trials and think the lawyers of yesteryear were smarter, you’re probably right. Western civilization has gotten dumber since the nineteenth century. The reason is summarized by the video after the jump….

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The Italian town of L’Aquila. Yeah, it’s the scientists’ fault a town built like this suffered from an earthquake.

The Italian government has a long and storied history of being distrustful and ignorant of science. Who can forget the tragedy of Galileo Galilei, the famous Italian scientist and astronomer who died under house arrest because he tried to figure things out instead of saying, “Meh, God is unknowable.”

Of course, an Italian would probably say “Suvvia! A lot has changed since the 1630s.” Then he’d look at all the women wearing tight jeans and applaud America’s rape prevention campaign.

Sure, the Italian legal system may have evolved to the point where it’s not arresting people for using telescopes and math, but it still has a long way to go before it shows a competent understanding of modern science.

In fact, it’s probably too much to ask Italian courts to understand science. I think the industrialized world would be happy if we could just get Italy to stop convicting scientists for doing their jobs….

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I’ve long argued that the LSAT doesn’t test a person’s raw intellectual horsepower so much as it tests how well a person prepared for the LSAT. It’s a reading comprehension test that rewards prior achievement instead of future potential. It can be taught. It can be gamed. It can be beat.

Others argue that it really does get to the heart of one’s “intelligence,” and their baseline ability to perform critical thinking tasks.

There is a new study out that says, basically, that I’m right, but I’m sure both sides will find something supportive in the findings. The study looks at the way studying for the LSAT impacts the physical brain chemistry of test takers. One thing I think we’ll all agree on is that merely studying for the LSAT messes with your head….

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