03.22.17

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Protectionism v Sharing: How the US Supreme Court Decides Patent Cases

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 6:55 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Finding balance between restrictions and collectively-beneficial liberalism

“The copyright laws attempt to strike a balance between protecting original works and stifling further creativity.” Bridgeport Music, Inc. v Dimension Films, opinion of the court (2004)

Summary: As the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) starts delivering some decisions we take stock of what’s to come regarding patents

AS EXPECTED, the Justices at SCOTUS bring forth some new output for law firms to comb through before analyses/interpretations get published by the hundreds/thousands. First there was today’s decision on uniform copyrights (just covered in our latest daily links, under the copyright section, with three reports we’ve found within hours).

“To summarise, in the area of copyright the Justices sidle with the maximalisms, whereas in the area of patents it’s not quite as depressing.”Professor Crouch took note of the Lexmark case, which is still ongoing (orally). To quote a portion: “Truthfully, most of the oral arguments involve Justice Breyer explaining to other members of the court that Lexmark’s approach violate’s Lord Coke’s 300 year old maxims – “that’s been the kind of basic legal principle for an awfully long time.” Lexmark’s primary answer: “the common law changed a lot after Lord Coke.” In the two most recent IP Decisions by the Court – Star Athletica and SCA Hygiene – the majority ruled in favor of the IP rights-holder over Justice Breyer dissents in both cases.”

We’ve already covered this case before. MIP, in the mean time, takes note of the laches defence, writing this afternoon that “The Supreme Court rejected wholesale the Federal Circuit’s stance that laches be an available defence in patent law, in its SCA Hygiene v First Quality ruling” (we wrote about this last night).

“We certainly hope that in the coming days, weeks and months the Justices will recognise that for patent law to be respected and be seen as legitimate it needs to adhere to public interests and be limited to what is reasonable.”To summarise, in the area of copyright the Justices sidle with the copyright maximalisms, whereas in the area of patents it’s not quite as depressing. The likes of IAM and Watchtroll will no doubt write about that soon; IAM has just published this rant from a law firm, asserting that “Patent Trial and Appeal Board, state anti-troll laws and anti-patent Supreme Court and Federal Circuit decisions have eroded patent protection.”

No, these have improved patent quality — something we should all celebrate unless we make money by peddling patent feuds. We certainly hope that in the coming days, weeks and months the Justices will recognise that for patent law to be respected and be seen as legitimate it needs to adhere to public interests and be limited to what is reasonable. This means, among other things, that the ruling on TC Heartland (last update a couple of days ago) should be made against patent trolls infesting the Eastern District of Texas.

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