Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Erie and Intellectual Property Law

When it comes to choice of law, U.S. federal courts hearing intellectual property law claims generally do one of two things. They either construct and apply the federal IP statutes (Title 18, Title 35, Title 17, and Title 15, respectively), remaining as faithful to Congress' meaning as possible; or they construct and apply state law claims brought under supplemental (or diversity) jurisdiction, remaining as faithful as possible to the meaning of the relevant state statutes and state judicial decisions. In the former case, they apply federal law; in the latter case, they apply the law of the state in which they sit.

Simple, right? Or maybe not.

This Friday, University of Akron School of Law is hosting a conference called Erie At Eighty: Choice of Law Across the Disciplines, exploring the implications of the Erie doctrine across a variety of fields, from civil procedure to constitutional law to evidence to remedies. I will be moderating a special panel: Erie in Intellectual Property Law.  Joe Miller (Georgia) will present his paper, "Our IP Federalism: Thoughts on Erie at Eighty"; Sharon Sandeen (Mitchell-Hamline) will present her paper, "The Erie/Sears-Compco Squeeze: Erie's Effects on Unfair Competition and Trade Secret Law”; and Shubha Ghosh (Syracuse) will present his paper "Jurisdiction Stripping and the Federal Circuit: A Path for Unlocking State Law Claims from Patent."

Other IP scholars in attendance include Bryan Frye (Kentucky), whose paper The Ballad of Harry James Tompkins provides a riveting, surprising, and (I think) convincing re-telling of the Erie story, and Megan LaBelle (Catholic University of America), whose paper discusses the crucial issue of whether the Erie line of cases directs federal courts sitting in diversity to apply state privilege law. All papers will be published in the Akron Law Review.

If you have written a paper that touches on the Erie doctrine's implications for intellectual property, I would really appreciate it if you would send it to me: or I will link to them in a subsequent post in order provide a resource for future research. Thank you!

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