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The Jerusalem Recognition: Before and After

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.…[more]

December 14, 2017 • 10:37 am

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Jester's CourtroomLegal tales stranger than stranger than fiction: Ridiculous and sometimes funny lawsuits plaguing our courts.
Innovation Act: Much-Needed Patent Litigation Reform While Protecting IP Rights Print
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, March 12 2015
Far too often, malevolent litigants asserting vague and invalid patent claims threaten other inventors, innovators and even consumers with baseless lawsuits.

The United States rightfully maintains the world's strongest system of intellectual property (IP) protections, including patent, copyright and trademark rights. 

America also stands unparalleled as the most inventive, creative, prosperous and powerful nation in human history. 

That relationship is causal, not coincidental. 

Our Founding Fathers considered IP rights so paramount that they specifically protected them in the text of the Constitution.  That reflected both a utilitarian goal of incentivizing creation, as well as the natural rights view that individual creators possess an inherent right to the fruits of their labor.  As philosophical forefather John Locke observed, "Our handiwork becomes our property because our hands - and the energy, consciousness, and control that fuel their labor - are our property."  Echoing Locke, James Madison said of copyrights and patents, "[t]he public good fully coincides in both cases with the claims of individuals." 

With regard to patent rights in particular, one-time patent lawyer Abraham Lincoln observed, "The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius, in the discovery and production of new and useful things." 

As a result, despite our relatively brief national history, we have achieved an unrivaled record of scientific and technological innovation.  That includes everything from the light bulb to the telephone to the phonograph to powered flight to the computer to the moon landing to the Internet to pharmaceuticals.  While accounting for just 5% of the world's population, for instance, America in recent years has accounted for nearly two-thirds of new drug patents worldwide. 

Unfortunately, our current litigation system, including patent litigation, maintains a comparatively less auspicious record, one in desperate need of reform.  

Far too often, malevolent litigants asserting vague and invalid patent claims threaten other inventors, innovators and even consumers with baseless lawsuits.  Such litigants commonly succeed in interrupting targeted respondents' business operations, imposing unnecessary litigation costs and extracting unjustified settlements from threatened defendants.  That occurs because parties asserting illegitimate patent claims offer to settle for less than litigation would otherwise cost, content in the expectation that attorneys' fees and costs are extremely unlikely to be imposed for bringing frivolous suits. 

Smaller businesses and individual innovators are particularly vulnerable to such threats, since their limited resources render them less able to retain effective counsel.  Large businesses, however, are also often targeted, since their deeper pockets often lead them to offer nuisance settlement amounts rather than bother with litigation and potential "jackpot justice" awards.  In  either circumstance, such extortionate settlements only serve to encourage similar future behavior and further exploit our judicial system.  Each year, the cost to innovators and our economy reaches tens of billions of dollars. 

To address those widespread problems in our current patent litigation system, while also protecting legitimate patent claimants, Congressman Robert Goodlatte (R - Virginia) has reintroduced the Innovation Act.   Identical legislation passed the House approximately one year ago by a lopsided 325 to 91 vote, and nothing has changed since that date to justify a reversal. 

The bill narrowly targets patent litigation abuses, primarily by introducing several key reforms to the patent litigation process.  Those reforms include:  (1) Greater ability to shift costs and fees to improper litigants than the current system provides;  (2) Heightened pleading standards that require greater clarity and justification for the lawsuit itself;  (3) Greater transparency regarding true owners of disputed patents;  and (4) Much-needed streamlining of the discovery process during litigation, which often imposes oppressive burdens in time and resources upon respondents. 

Opponents of the Innovation Act claim that it will somehow deprive judges of discretion in assessing fees, but the simple fact is that discretion will remain.  The bill specifically states that judges need not award fees and costs if "the court finds that the position and conduct of the nonprevailing party or parties were reasonably justified in law and fact or that special circumstances (such as severe economic hardship to a named inventor) make an award unjust."  Accordingly, what would change is that the presumption in awarding costs and fees would shift on the continuum toward greater ability of innocent victims of vexatious plaintiffs to receive compensation for being forced to defend against unjustified lawsuits. 

Reform opponents also claim that the bill would unjustly chill the filing of lawsuits by legitimate plaintiffs by imposing strict pleading requirements and discovery limits.  Again, however, the text of the Innovation Act itself dispels such arguments.  Regarding pleading specificity, the bill allows exceptions where "the information is not reasonably accessible to such party," the information is "not readily accessible" or in the case of "confidential information."  And regarding discovery reform, the bill provides, "In special circumstances that would make denial of discovery a manifest injustice, the court may permit discovery, in addition to the discovery authorized ... as necessary to prevent the manifest injustice." 

Moreover, as any reasonable observer of our current litigation environment already knows, the overwhelming problem in our current system is not undue reluctance of plaintiffs to sue, but rather an excessive willingness and incentive to sue. 

The Innovation Act thus constitutes common-sense litigation reform, and legitimate patent plaintiffs with meritorious claims would have nothing to fear from the legislation.  It deserves the support of the American public, and quick passage in both the House and Senate. 

Question of the Week   
The Antiquities Act, which authorizes the establishment of National Monuments, specifies which one of the following?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"It's this close: Republicans in the House and Senate have struck a $1.5 trillion tax-cut deal that could put the economy on a fast track for years.All they need is to put the final touches on the bill and pass it in both chambers. President Trump could sign it by Christmas.That would be a major win -- not just for Trump and the GOP, but for America. ...This is no time for spoilers. Americans need…[more]
 
 
—New York Post Editorial Board
— New York Post Editorial Board
 
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