February 2008

The Patent Statute states: The court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party. 35 U.S.C. 285.

While finding no “willfulness” in the underlying infringment, Judge Harrington has imposed attorney’s fees of $10 million based on Medtronic’s trial conduct in the long-running Medtronic/Depuy Spine patent infringement litigation. Specifically, Judge Harrington concluded that Medtronic’s lawyers attempted to “mislead and confuse the jury in a manner inconsistent with the patent claim construction required by a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (linked to above).

Judge Harrington imposed this sanction under the patent statute and the court’s inherent power.

However, context is everything. Believe it or not, this amount represents only 15% of plainitiff’s attorney’s fees during one phase the case (do the math – (15%x = $10 million)). And, the liability judgement against Medtronics was $226 million.

But, still, $10 million isn’t chump change, even to Medtronics.… Read the full article

When you can prove that you likely are the victim of copyright or trademark infringement, or trade secret misappropriation, you have a good shot at getting a preliminary injunction (if you can afford the bond). That’s because there is a legal “presumption” of irreparable harm associated with these types of IP claims. Prove likelihood of success and you are well on your way to the promised land of “irreparable harm.”

But, this is not true in patent cases. It’s quite difficult to get a preliminary injunction in a patent infringement case. Its always been hard, and its getting harder. After all, in 2006 the Supreme Court issued a ruling the result of which is that injunctions are far from a sure thing, even if you win a patent infringement case on the full merits (for example, after trial). eBay v. MercExchange [link].

Many courts (although not the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which holds almost all of the big mojo when it comes to patent matters, trumpted only by SCOTUS), has not explicitly held that MercExchange applies to preliminary injunctions, but it would be illogical to conclude the holding in that case does not apply in the context of preliminary injunctions, and a number of district courts have so held.… Read the full article

Old Lawyers Never Die, They Just Lose Their Judgment

by Lee Gesmer on February 11, 2008

One of the most highly respected Massachusetts Superior Court Judges, Allan van Gestel, retired on December 31, 2007, at the age of 72. A recent press release from JAMS shows that Judge van Gestel is following the time-honored practice of becoming a mediator and arbitrator for JAMS (or another large mediation/arbitration organization). A lot of judges that try this really don’t seem very well suited for the task, for reasons that escape me. Maybe they have a hard time transitioning from a position of near-absolute power to little of no power at all. However, based on a lot of contact with Judge van Gestel (Ret.) over the years, and knowing his reputation as former head of the Business Litigation Sesssion, I suspect he’s going to break the mold, and will be very successful in this role.

Oh, and despite the title of this blog entry, if there were ever a former judge that proved the proposition that 72 is the new 42, it’s Judge van Gestel.… Read the full article

In December I wrote a post title Why Has Silicon Valley Outperformed Boston/Route 128 as a High Tech Hub? The topic was whether the legality of noncompete agreements (“NCAs”) in Massachusetts has put the state at a disadvantage to California, where NCAs are not enforceable.

The Alliance for Open Competition is a blog where people and organizations who would like Massachusetts to join California (and other states) and make NCAs illegal express their views on this issue.

The first entry in the blog is Spark Capital’s open letter to Governor Deval Patrick in early December 2007.

The purpose of the Alliance is described as follows:

The Alliance for Open Competition is a group of entrepreneurs, investors and executives dedicated to fostering innovation throughout the US. We seek to breakdown a major barrier to entrepreneurialism: the use of non-competition agreements mandated by employers that force employees to sign away their rights to engage in any business of a competitive nature when they leave their present jobs.

Read the full article