January 2010

Judge Young Issues Mea Culpa on Expert Witness Testimony in Patent Case, Orders a Do-Over

Massachusetts U.S. District Court William Young has been teaching evidence law for as long as I can recall, even as far back as his pre-federal court days, when he was on the Superior Court bench (Judge Young was appointed to the federal bench in 1985, and had been a Massachusetts Superior Court Judge from 1978 to 1985).

So it comes as a surprise to many when Judge Young admits he made an evidence-related error during a recent patent trial, and that as a result he will order a new trial.

The case is NewRiver, Inc. v. Newkirk Products, Inc.  In brief, NewRiver’s patent claimed as an invention a computer-assisted method for manipulating securities information in the SEC EDGAR database to extract only certain information, such as mutual fund prospecti.  After trial the jury held some claims to have been infringed, and others to be invalid as obvious. The issue that has attracted attention is contained in Judge Young’s decision addressing the usual tsunami of post-trial motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.… Read the full article

“$2 Million for Stealing 24 Songs for Personal Use is Simply Shocking” Says Minnesota Federal Judge, Issuing Remittitur Order

Out of more than 30,000 cases filed against downloaders by the record companies only two end-user download cases have gone to trial and judgment: the Tenenbaum case in Boston, and the case against Jammie Thomas-Rassett in Minnesota.

In the second case, the jury awarded the copyright owners $2 million for downloading (and allegedly distributing) 24 songs.  The federal judge to whom the case is assigned has now lowered that amount to $2,250 per song (the legal term of the judge’s action is “remittitur”).

Some quotes from the Thomas-Rassett January 22, 2010 decision:

After long and careful deliberation, the Court . . . remits the damages award to $2,250 per song – three times the statutory minimum. The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music. . . . although Plaintiffs were not required to prove their actual damages, statutory damages must still bear some relation to actual damages.

Read the full article
The Boston Area Technology Sector is a Lot Like Silicon Valley/Santa Clara County …. Not.

A table from Branko Gerovac’s website, Empirical Reality compares the technology areas of Massachusetts and Silicon Valley The two areas are far more alike, on the statistical level, than I had realized –

2008 Boston CSA* San Francisco CSA
Total population 7,514,759 7,354,444
Population 25 years and over 5,086,671 5,013,980
Bachelor’s degree 21.80% 24.70%
Graduate or professional degree 15.60% 16.60%
Population 16 years and over 6,047,131 5,888,844
In labor force 69.60% 67.60%
Unemployed 4.00% 4.10%
Median household income (dollars) 66,723 77,247
Mean earnings (dollars) 90,213 104,526
Per capita income (dollars) 34,324 39,069
Households 2,835,304 2,628,007
Owner-occupied housing units 64.60% 58.80%
Median home value (dollars) 345,000 656,500

(* CSA stands for “Combined Statistical Area”)

However, it’s no more accurate to say these two regions are comparable than it is to say that two 175 pound men are comparable – one may be all muscle, the other, well …..

Unfortunately, as Mr. Gerovac details in a number of other posts, Boston is far behind Silicon Valley in innovation, start-ups, and a variety of other key factors central to business development. … Read the full article

If the  Feds Oppose Him, Tennenbaum (and Nesson) Must be Right! – Joel Fights Back

Joel’s last chance before Massachusetts Federal District Court Judge Gertner (“Joel Fights Back”) is his post-judgment motion to set aside or reduce the damages award against him on the grounds that the judgment is unconstitutional – after all, what government would punish a student to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for a crummy mp3 download he could have purchased for less than a buck?  Ours, of course.

Joel’s Harvard Prof. lawyers filed a motion – punitive and unconstitutional, said they.

The DOJ disagrees.  Quite proper, say they, per brief below.

It’s not for me to say, but I’m thinking that there are some pretty big egos on the defense side of this case.  Nothing wrong with that, of course ….. 😉

DOJ Tennenbaum Post-trial Brief Read the full article