Monday, August 14, 2017

Research Handbook on the Economics of IP (Depoorter, Menell & Schwartz)

Many IP professors have posted chapters of the forthcoming Research Handbook on the Economics of Intellectual Property Law. As described in a 2015 conference for the project, it "draws together leading economics, legal, and empirical scholars to codify and synthesize research on the economics of intellectual property law." This should be a terrific starting point for those new to these fields. I'll link to new chapters as they become available, so if you are interested in this project, you might want to bookmark this post. (If I've missed one, let me know!)

Volume I – Theory (Ben Depoorter & Peter Menell eds.)


Volume II – Analytical Methods (Peter Menell & David Schwartz eds.)

Patents

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Kevin Collins on Patent Law's Authorship Screen

Numerous scholars have examined the various functionality screens that are used to prevent non-utility-patent areas of IP from usurping what is properly the domain of utility patent law (see, e.g., the terrific recent articles by Chris Buccafusco and Mark Lemley and by Mark McKenna and Chris Sprigman). But hardly anyone has asked the inverse question: How should utility patent law screen out things that should be protected by non-patent IP? In Patent Law's Authorship Screen (forthcoming U. Chi. L. Rev.), Kevin Collins focuses on the patent/copyright boundary, and he coins the term "authorship screen" as the mirror image of copyright's functionality screen. As with pretty much everything Collins writes, it is thought provoking and well worth reading.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kuhn & Thompson on Measuring Patent Scope by Word Count

I've seen a number of recent papers that attempt to algorithmically measure patent scope by counting the number of words in the patent's first claim and comparing to other patents in the same technological field (with longer claims → more details → narrower scope). In their new paper, The Ways We've Been Measuring Patent Scope are Wrong: How to Measure and Draw Causal Inferences with Patent Scope, Jeffrey Kuhn (UNC) and Neil Thompson (MIT Sloan) argue that this measure is superior to prior scope measures.

They validate the word-count measure by comparing with survey responses from seven patent attorneys (below). In comparison, they find that previous measures of patent scope—the number of classes, the number of citations by future patents, and the number of claims—are uncorrelated or negatively correlated with their attorneys' subjective responses.


Of course, there are lots of reasons that word count is an imperfect measure, and additional validation would be helpful. (It would also be good to confirm that the attorneys in this study were blinded to the study design.) Those planning empirical patent studies should approach this variable with caution (and with good advice from patent law experts), but it is a potential scope measure that patent empiricists should at least have on their radar screens.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Liscow & Karpilow on Innovation Snowballing and Climate Law

Patent scholars are often skeptical of the government "picking winners," but in Innovation Snowballing and Climate Law, Zach Liscow and Quentin Karpilow (Yale Law) argue that the government should target specific technologies to address social harms like climate change.

It is well known that green technologies present a double externality problem. Both innovation and environmentally friendly goods have significant positive spillovers (and thus will be undersupplied absent government intervention), and the problem is magnified for environmentally friendly innovations. The standard policy solution is to correct each externality, such as through carbon taxes (or cap and trade) and innovation subsidies (e.g., patents, grants, and R&D tax incentives).

Liscow and Karpilow argue that this approach misses the dynamics of cumulative innovation. We know that innovators stand on the shoulders of giants, but Innovation Snowballing describes recent research on how innovators "prefer to stand on the tallest shoulders in order to get the quickest, largest financial returns." Specific "clean" technologies (like solar) thus need a big push to snowball past "dirty" technologies (like fossil fuels):

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Judge Dyk on the Supreme Court and Patent Law, with Responses

Judge Timothy Dyk of the Federal Circuit has long welcomed the Supreme Court's involvement in patent law—see, e.g., essays in 2008 and 2014. In a new Chicago-Kent symposium essay, he states that he "continue[s] to believe that Supreme Court review of our patent cases has been critical to the development of patent law and likewise beneficial to our court," such as by "reconciling [Federal Circuit] jurisprudence with jurisprudence in other areas."

Four pieces were published in response to Judge Dyk, and while Michael previously noted Greg Reilly's argument that the Supreme Court does understand patent law, the others are also worth a quick read. Tim Holbrook (Emory) argues that some of the Court's interest reflects "suspicion about the Federal Circuit as an institution" but that the result is "a mixed bags" (with some interventions having "gone off the rails"). Don Dunner (Finnegan) is even more critical of the Supreme Court's involvement, arguing that "it has created uncertainty and a lack of predictability in corporate boardrooms, the very conditions that led to the Federal Circuit's creation." And Paul Gugliuzza (BU) argues that "the Supreme Court's effect on patent law has actually been more limited" because its decisions "have rarely involved the fundamental legal doctrines that directly ensure the inventiveness of patents and regulate their scope" and because its "minimalist approach to opinion writing in patent cases frequently enables the Federal Circuit to ignore the Court's changes to governing doctrine."

Monday, July 3, 2017

USPTO Economists on Patent Litigation Predictors

Alan Marco (USPTO Chief Economist) and Richard Miller (USPTO Senior Economist) have recently posted Patent Examination Quality and Litigation: Is There a Link?, which compares the characteristics of litigated patents with various matched controls. The litigation data was from RPX, the patent data was from various USPTO datasets, and the controls were either chosen randomly from the same art unit and grant year or were chosen with propensity score matching based on various observable characteristics. They are interested in whether examination-related variables that can be controlled by the USPTO are related to later litigation, and they conclude that "some examination characteristics predict litigation, but that the bulk of the predictive power in the model comes from filing characteristics."

Marco and Miller report that patents filed by small entities are more than twice as likely to be litigated than those filed by large entities, and patents with longer continuation histories and application pendency are also more likely to be litigated. Government-interest patents and foreign-priority patents are much less likely to be litigated than other similar patents. Other characteristics that indicate higher probability of subsequent litigation include having more independent claims and shorter independent claims (proxies for broader patents), being allowed by examiners with signatory authority, not being allowed on first action, having more IDS filings or examiner interviews.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gugliuzza & Lichtman on the Timing of Patent Litigation

Are patent cases being litigated too quickly or too slowly? Two recently posted articles tackle this problem from different angles:

Paul Gugliuzza's Quick Decisions in Patent Cases argues that patent litigation is "notoriously expensive and time consuming," but that there is a beneficial trend toward quicker decisions through practices such as pleadings-stage dismissals on patent eligibility grounds, post-grant revocation at the PTO, and heightened pleading requirements. These changes have been controversial, and Gugliuzza discusses ways each development might be further improved in terms of the overall tradeoff between accuracy and cost. But overall, Gugliuzza argues that the benefits of faster litigation resolution probably outweigh the downsides.

On the other hand, Doug Lichtman's Patient Patents begins with the provocative claim that "a large number of patent cases are today being litigated too quickly." His basic argument is straightforward: Delay is most costly in cases that potentially involve injunctions, but post-eBay, many patent plaintiffs are denied injunctive relief. In these cases, "delay takes a day for which the accused infringer would have been paying a court-ordered ongoing royalty and transforms it into a day for which the accused infringer will instead pay court-ordered backward-looking damages." Thus, these cases "are the ideal candidates for which to consider tailored, accuracy-enhancing litigation delay." This is not to say that delay is costless; perhaps most importantly, as Lichtman acknowledges, it "increases the duration of patent uncertainty." His point is simply that the optimal balance has been shifted by the increased prevalence of damages over injunctions.

Although these two articles might initially seem contradictory, they are really focused on different aspects of the cost-benefit analysis of litigation timing. Indeed, Gugliuzza notes and does not dispute Licthman's argument, but contends that it does not affect the majority of cases because "nearly seventy-five percent of successful patentees still obtain permanent injunctions, and that figure increases to eighty percent when PAEs are excluded." I think both are worth a read.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

More Classic Patent Scholarship

It has been a while since the last update to my Classic Patent Scholarship, so I thought I would add some works that I view as "classics" but that haven't made it onto the list yet.

First, while the body of "Beyond IP" scholarship is blossoming (see, e.g., the two Yale ISP conferences, where I got to present work with Daniel Hemel), there is a long history of work on innovation incentives beyond patents. For example, Machlup and Penrose (already on the list of classics) describe how the patents-vs-prizes debate dates back to at least the 19th century. Here are two works I would add to the classics list:
Other important works in this genre, which don't quite fit under my pre-2000 "classic" bar, include Frischmann 2000, Shavell & van Ypersele 2001, Gallini & Scotchmer 2002, and Abramowicz 2003.

As a former grant-funded university researcher (during my physics grad school days), I'm particularly interested in the role of grants and other direct funding as a non-patent incentive, and their overlap with patents through the Bayh–Dole Act. Here are some additional classics in this area:

Finally, there is now a long strand of literature on the Federal Circuit as an institution and the value of specialized patent adjudication; anyone interested in this area should start with the work of Rochelle Dreyfuss:

For other classics—including more extended commentary on them by prominent patent law professors—see the Classic Patent Scholarship page. And if you have suggestions of other pre-2000 works that should be on the list, please add them to the comments on send me an email!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Jeanne Fromer: Should We Regulate Certification Marks?

Teaching trademark law for the first time this spring, I fielded several questions from students on a lesser known corner of trademark law: certification marks. For those who have not encountered certifications marks, they are a special type of trademark, whose role is to certify that goods or services comply with a particular standard. Precisely how are certification marks obtained, students asked, and how closely does the PTO scrutinize the chosen standard? What if a company wants to certify its goods, and the mark owner refuses out of an arbitrary dislike for the seller rather than the contents or quality of its offerings? So it was a fortuitous event that I came across Jeanne Fromer's article The Unregulated Certification Mark(et)published in January in the Stanford Law Review.  Former's paper answers these questions and much more.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

More Impressions About Patent Exhaustion

Daniel Hemel and Lisa Larrimore Ouellette
Cross-posted at Whatever Source Derived

As we explained last week, the full impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Impression Products v. Lexmark will depend on whether courts are willing to view creative patent transactions as licenses (which do not exhaust the patentee’s rights) rather than sales (which, after Impression, now do). While it is too early to answer that question, we can already anticipate answers to two related questions regarding Impression’s impact: (1) What does the decision mean for pharmaceutical prices in the United States and abroad?; and (2) How will Impression affect information costs in markets for patented products? With respect to the first question, we expect that Impression will put upward pressure on pharmaceutical prices in developing countries—and downward pressure on prices in the United States—notwithstanding the fact that the importation of drugs from abroad will remain illegal under most circumstances. As for the second question, we are skeptical that Impression will have a substantial effect on information costs in markets for patented products, notwithstanding some of the enthusiastic commentary in the technology press immediately after the decision.

Below, we explain both of these conclusions in more detail.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Licensing in the Shadow of Impression Products

Daniel Hemel and Lisa Larrimore Ouellette
Cross-posted at Whatever Source Derived

Judging by the media coverage, the Supreme Court’s decision today in Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark Inc. will have dramatic implications for producers and consumers of patented products around the world. The decision places “sharp limits on how much control patent holders have over how their products are used after they are sold,” says the New York Times’s Adam Liptak. The ruling is a “sure-to-be-landmark decision,” reports Ronald Mann at SCOTUSblog. It “takes away an important tool used by companies to control the marketplace,” according to Bloomberg.

Well, maybe. But the Court’s opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, also opens the door for creative contract lawyers to draft licensing agreements that severely restrict resale of patented products. The full impact of the Supreme Court’s decision won’t be known for years, but much will depend on how courts view the newfangled licensing agreements that are almost certain to follow in the wake of Impression Products.

To see why, let’s start with a hypothetical: Suppose your firm, Company A, holds a U.S. patent covering a certain widget. You manufacture one such widget and sell it to B on the condition that B not resell the widget to anyone else. In violation of that condition, B resells the widget to C, who then uses the widget. Can you sue B and/or C for patent infringement?

Prior to today, the answer under Federal Circuit precedent was yes: A could sue both B and C. Today’s decision changes that. The Court holds that “a patentee’s decision to sell a product exhausts all of its patent rights in that item, regardless of any restrictions the patentee purports to impose.” This is true even if A’s sale to B occurs outside the United States. Thus, Company A now cannot sue B or C for patent infringement, though it still might be able to sue B for breach of contract.

But now reconsider the above scenario with the following modification: Company A—instead of selling the widget to B—licenses the widget to B with the proviso that B can do whatever she wants with the widget except resell it. If B violates the terms of the license and resells the widget to C, who then uses it, can Company A sue B and/or C for patent infringement?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Major Issues in Trade Secret Law: Part 1

I was thrilled to attend The New Era of Trade Secret Law: The DTSA and other Developments, hosted by the IP Institute at Mitchell/Hamline School of Law and its Director, Sharon Sandeen, Robins Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Law.  The conference featured presentations by esteemed scholars of trade secret law discussing works in progress regarding trade secret law in the wake of federalization. In this post and in a subsequent post, I will provide brief summaries of some of these fascinating and important works in progress and what they say about the new federal trade secret law.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Biosimilars at the Supreme Court: Argument Preview

This is a guest post by Katie Mladinich, a J.D. student at Stanford Law School. She received her Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments this morning in its first cases involving the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), Amgen v. Sandoz and Sandoz v. Amgen. Passed as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the BPCIA was intended to create an FDA approval pathway for generic versions of complex biologic drugs, biosimilars, much as the 1984 Hatch-Waxman Act has facilitated generic approvals for small-molecule drugs. The BPCIA was a hard-fought legislative compromise between those favoring stronger incentives for biologic pioneers and those seeking to rein in spiraling healthcare costs with more affordable generic drugs. The statute resolved a number of key issues, such as setting a twelve-year data exclusivity period before a biosimilar may be approved, but the policy battle over many smaller details has now moved to the courts. Amgen filed suit against Sandoz for seeking approval of a biosimilar of Amgen’s filgrastim drug, Neupogen, based on two sections of the BPCIA. Amgen claims (1) that Sandoz failed to provide Amgen a copy of its abbreviated Biologics License Application (aBLA) as required to begin the BPCIA “patent dance” under § 262(l)(2)(A), and (2) that Sandoz did not grant Amgen the required 180-day notice of commercial marketing by providing notice prior to FDA approval as required by § 262(l)(8)(A). The Northern District of California ruled in Sandoz’s favor on both issues, but the Federal Circuit overturned the district court on the second issue—while quoting Churchill in describing the statute as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The Supreme Court is now faced with unraveling this riddle.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Yelderman on Accuracy in the Patent System

When the USPTO is faced with a patent application of uncertain validity, which way should it err? How do the costs of erroneous patent grants compare with the costs of erroneous patent denials? Steve Yelderman provides an insightful new take on these questions in The Value of Accuracy in the Patent System (forthcoming in the University of Chicago Law Review). In short, he concludes that erroneous patent grants are more harmful than previously assumed, but only when "the unsatisfied patentability requirement is one that seeks to influence a mutually exclusive choice"—i.e., whether it incentivizes invention over non-invention, disclosure over non-disclosure, licensing over reinvention, etc.

Under the conventional account, if one assumes that the legal criteria of patentability are set correctly (an important caveat!), then social welfare is maximized by awarding patents to patentable inventions (true positives) and denying patents to unpatentable inventions (true negatives). Erroneous denials (false negatives) create a cost of decreased ex ante incentives for other inventors (IFN), while erroneous grants (false positives) and correct grants create ex post costs like deadweight loss (C). If the probability that a given application is patentable is q, then it should only be granted at the threshold q > C/IFN. (Note that it doesn't matter whether IFN is included as a cost for false negatives or a benefit for true positives; you get to the same result.) If the ex post costs of patents are low relative to their incentive benefits, they should be granted even for inventions that are unlikely to meet patentability standards, and as the relative weight of these factors reverses, patents should only be awarded when it seems quite likely that they are deserved.

Yelderman's key insight is that this analysis ignores another important cost of erroneous grants: false positives also reduce ex ante incentives because they often narrow the expected difference between inventing and not inventing. This framework can be illustrated as follows, with IFP shown in blue:

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dan Brean and Bryan Clark: Casting Aspersions in Patent Trials

There are two main bases for rectifying misconduct in a patent case. First, a prevailing patentee can collect treble damages from a willful infringer. Second, on the flip side, a prevailing patent infringement defendant can force the patentee to pay attorneys'  fees for bringing a claim in bad faith.  Currently, the question of whether the infringer's actions were "willful" is decided by a jury, but the question of whether the patentee brought the case in "bad faith", such as to harass or eek out a settlement, is decided by a judge without jury input. In their new article, Casting Aspersions in Patent Trials, forthcoming in the University of Pittsburgh Law Review, my Akron Law colleague Professor Dan Brean, along with Bryan Clark, argue that, to the extent the parties get the opportunity to "cast aspersions" on the other side in front of the jury, the parties should be on equal footing in doing so. Better yet, they argue, both issues should be decided by a judge. The jury should not be involved in deciding either willfulness by infringers or bad faith by patentees.

The majority of the paper is devoted to convincing the reader that this is the right result, and to demonstrating that, contrary to common perception, the Seventh Amendment requires neither issue to go to a jury.  They also do a deep dive into similar scenarios in other areas of law, where the character of both parties becomes an issue–such as parallel considerations of the defendant's and the victim's character in the criminal context. They point out that, when character evidence is introduced, "the Federal Rules of Evidence contemplate that juries should be able to consider the 'character' of the defendant if the victim’s character is put in issue. ... this important exception ensures a fair trial: if the criminal defendant casts aspersions at the victim, the victim may do the same so that the jury can determine if the defendant was truly the culpable one." The authors also discuss similar fairness policies surrounding comparative negligence in tort law.

The authors conclude that, in the best case scenario, "both willfulness and bad-faith enforcement should be resolved by judges after trial when matters of liability and damages have already been established, and when the risk of 'bad actor' arguments tainting the liability and damages verdicts is gone."  In the second best scenario, they argue that so long as the status quo of trying defendant's willfulness before juries persists, "the more immediate question" is what to do about defendants who allege the patentee is asserting its patent in bad faith, which, as said, is currently tried before the judge. It is "fundamentally unfair," they contend, to "require defendants to endure aspersions cast by a patentee at trial but be unable to demonstrate how the patentee is itself engaged in culpable misconduct when proving bad faith." Thus, to the extent willfulness is tried to a jury, bad-faith enforcement by patentees should also be considered and decided by the same jury in order to even up the score.

The paper is clearly written and quite timely, given the Supreme Court's parallel holdings in Octane Fitness, recalibrating the standard for bad faith determinations under Section 285, and in Halo, doing the same for willfulness determinations under Section 284. If there is a chance to change current practice, and to better align the two remedial rules, this could be it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Patent Exhaustion Policy Tradeoffs in the Impression v. Lexmark Oral Argument

Rather than grappling with the hard economic policy issues that patent exhaustion presents, the Justices were surprisingly quiet during Tuesday's oral argument in Impression v. Lexmark. I've previously discussed the Federal Circuit decision in this case, and Ronald Mann has a preview and recap of the argument, so I'll just add a couple of additional thoughts on the policy tradeoffs:

Daniel Hemel and I have explained how a ruling for Impression would likely hurt consumers in poor countries in a Columbia Law Review Sidebar piece last year and in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday, and our longer Minnesota Law Review article explains why a U.S. rule of international patent exhaustion would undermine the ability of other countries to experiment with alternatives to the patent system for allocating access to knowledge goods. The only acknowledgement of this concern during argument seemed to be when the advocate for Impression, Andrew Pincus, implied that pharmaceutical parallel imports would not be a problem because "the FDA has full authority to prevent imports under 21 U.S.C. 381." But as Daniel and I note in our Columbia piece, this statute is far from a substitute for U.S. patent rights—it depends on discretionary government enforcement (which might not be particularly vigorous when U.S. policymakers are concerned about health care costs), it is subject to a personal use exemption, it only prohibits re-importation (not importation of drugs manufactured abroad), and it only affects prescription drugs (not trade in other patented products including medical devices or low-cost laptops).

So what were the Justices concerned about? The only policy consequence they asked about was the argument of pro-exhaustion parties that the current system generates needless complexity. Chief Justice Roberts asked about the "products with literally thousands of different patents" such that "it just gets too complicated," Justice Sotomayor questioned whether "having different rules with respect to copyright and patents … will complicate the checking," and Justice Breyer was concerned about needing "a sticker on every toy" to explain the relevant patent rights. But as Daniel and I have explained, "the cost of determining whether the patentee has reserved its U.S. patent rights does not seem particularly onerous in comparison with all the other information costs involved in verifying that a product is noninfringing." And none of the amici have been able to quantify—or even point to good examples of—severe information-cost externalities related to the current patent exhaustion laws. Justice Alito asked counsel for Impression whether the current rule has "caused a lot of problems," and he didn't get any concrete examples.

Given the relatively cold bench, it is difficult to predict where the Court will end up. Justice Breyer, Justice Sotomayor, and Chief Justice Roberts asked questions favoring Impression, but Justice Alito seemed to lean toward the status quo, and Justice Kennedy asked if the Court should be "cautious in extending" patent exhaustion because it is not codified. Justices Kagan and Thomas were silent. Ronald Mann thinks the Justices "are well aware of the major implications here and don’t see any obvious way to avoid doing something that will have real economic consequences"; I hope he's right that they have really had a chance to consider the inevitable tradeoffs at stake.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Copyright Survives

When I teach ProCD in my internet law class, I make two primary points. First, the case can't possible be right. Judge Easterbrook mangles UCC law and how the battle of the forms works. Second, the case can't possibly be wrong: companies have to be able to price discriminate by restricting usage of information that is unprotected by copyright but expensive to gather. Without this ability, either the price of such information products will be higher, or they may not be created at all.

Many people disagree with me on the second point. In their view, the goal of copyright law is to regulate not just what should be protected, but to ensure that what is not protected stays in the public domain, no matter what. It is against this backdrop that Guy Rub (Ohio State) gives us his article forthcoming in the Virginia Law Review: Copyright Survives: Rethinking the Copyright-Contracts Conflict, now available on SSRN. The abstract is here:
Twenty years ago, copyright died. More accurately, it was murdered. In 1996, in ProCD v. Zeidenberg, Judge Easterbrook, writing for the Seventh Circuit, held that a contract that restricted the use of factual information was not preempted by the Copyright Act and therefore enforceable. The reaction among copyright scholars was swift and passionate. In dozens of articles and books, spreading over two decades, scholars cautioned that if the ProCD approach is broadly adopted, the results would be dire. Through contracts, the rights of copyright owners would run amok, expand, and in doing so they would invade, shrink, and possibly destroy the public domain. Contracts, we were repeatedly warned throughout the years, would kill copyright law.
This Article challenges this scholarly consensus by studying the 288 court opinions that have dealt with the copyright-contract conflict over the past four decades. This examination reveals surprising facts: Notwithstanding the scholars’ warnings, ProCD’s approach won the day and was embraced by most federal circuit courts. However, the doomsday scenarios scholars warned against did not materialize. The overall effect of contracts on the size and scope of the public domain, or over copyright law as a whole, seems minimal. The Article explains this discrepancy and shows that contracts are an ineffective tool to control information because they are too weak of a device to threaten or replace copyright law. Indeed, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of copyright were greatly exaggerated.
The Article concludes by placing this analysis in context, as part of a broader ongoing discussion on the desirability and enforceability of standard-form agreements.
I really love this article. I think that resolving questions of how we should balance free ideas, access controls, and freedom of contract is incredibly difficult, and I have yet to see a good solution. I certainly don't have one myself (yet). I have an article I've been working on since I was a fellow - the empty shell has a nice title, and little text. This article may inspire me to take another look at it. That said, I do have a few comments, after the jump.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Does the Supreme Court Understand Patent Law?

It's been a busy semester, but I thought I would note briefly a provocative essay that just came across my feed by Greg Reilly (Chicago Kent): How Can the Supreme Court Not "Understand" Patent Law? The abstract is here:
The Supreme Court does understand patent law. This invited Essay responds to Federal Circuit Judge Dyk’s remarks at the Chicago-Kent Supreme Court IP Review, in particular, his observation that the patent “bar and the academy have expressed skepticism that the Supreme Court understands patent law well enough to make the governing rules” (a view Judge Dyk did not endorse). The idea that the Supreme Court does not understand the law of patents is implausible. Even more generous interpretations of this criticism – that the Supreme Court insufficiently understands innovation policy, insufficiently understands the patent system that Congress desired in creating the Federal Circuit, or insufficiently understands the technical facts to resolve patent issues – do not hold up under closer scrutiny. Rather, those leveling this charge against the Supreme Court are mistaking policy disagreement for a lack of understanding. This mistake, even if one primarily of rhetoric, has potentially negative consequences for understanding the role of patent law, promoting productive debates about patent law and policy, and preserving the Supreme Court’s legitimacy in patent law and patent law’s (perhaps limited) contribution to the constraints imposed by legal authority in our society.
Despite its relatively short length, there's much to parse here: the Supreme Court's jurisprudence from the lens of law, innovation policy, and technical understanding. While I disagree with some of the points, on the whole this essay resonates with me. There's no doubt that the Court's favoring of standards over rules is something that rubs folks the wrong way, but is consistent with the history of Supreme Court patent jurisprudence dating to the early 1800s. Further, even in those areas where I vehemently disagree with the Court's rulings (e.g. patentable subject matter), I think that disagreement is not because the Court fails to understand the issues. Instead, the Court has made policy choices that I disfavor.

In any event, this essay is worth a read regardless of your view of Court jurisprudence.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

IP Fellowship Opportunities at Harvard and Yale

According to the 2016 self-reported entry-level hiring report, 66 out of 83 (about 80%) new tenure-track law faculty had a fellowship, and this percentage has risen over time. I think this is primarily because fellowships give you time to write, and it is increasingly difficult to obtain a tenure-track job without a substantial portfolio.

For aspiring faculty in IP and related fields, here are two fellowship opportunities that may be of interest: one at the Yale Information Society Project (where I was a fellow), with applications due January 15 (this Sunday!), and one at the Harvard Project on the Foundations of Private Law, with applications due March 1. Follow the links for more details. And if you know of other current fellowship opportunities that may be of interest to Written Description readers, feel free to add them in the comments.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

IP and Federalism: An Expanding Field

Thanks to those of you who attended the "Intellectual Property & Federalism" panel at AALS, moderated by Jennifer Rothman and organized by Joe Miller. I truly enjoyed each of the presentations of my fellow panelists: Guy Rub, Brian Frye, Rothman, and Sharon Sandeen. If you missed it, read more at the jump.