If, like Eric Albritton, you’re a successful Texas lawyer who wants to claim that critical postings on the Patent Troll Tracker blog caused you “embarrassment, humiliation, mental pain and anguish,” you might actually have to document that. (Molly McDonough, ABA Journal, Nov. 3; earlier).
- If you’re claiming benefits for “total and permanent” disability it’s probably best not to enter bodybuilding competitions [Boston Globe and more, firefighter Albert Arroyo] More: GruntDoc;
- From 1884 Montreal: actionable to snub a parishioner while taking collection in church? [Volokh]
- Follow the bouncing venue in lawsuits against Rick Frenkel and Cisco over Patent Troll Tracker blog [Texas Lawyer “Tex Parte” blog]
- Individual liberty was one reason Bill Gates was free to earn his billions, too bad he’s not doing more to advance it with his philanthropy [NYTimes, Bloomberg and “tobacco control”]
- Andrew Giuliani, son of the mayor, is suing Duke University for kicking him off its golf team [Newsday, Henican] More: complaint at Popehat;
- New at Point of Law: AAJ, formerly ATLA, has its convention in Philadelphia (more); bogeyman of supposedly ultraconservative Roberts Court; why must “trophy” federal courthouses have such soulless and uncomfortable design?; Congress gunning for arbitration; too bad NYT’s enthusiasm for transparent public contracting on corporate monitors doesn’t carry over to other lawyer-hiring; the Delaware advantage in court organization; as we keep asking, what happened to Ron Motley’s yacht? and much more;
- Dr. Anna Pou, New Orleans cancer surgeon whose prosecution after Katrina roused intense controversy, recounts her experience [AP via Folo]
- “Unreal world of greed”: California appeals court throws out $88 million fee-arbitration award to Milberg Weiss and other firms following challenge to “smog impact fees” [six years ago on Overlawyered]
The Troll Tracker blog is down shortly after (or before?) a lawsuit filed by a plaintiffs’ attorney and son of federal judge T. John Ward, Jr. sued the blogger and his employer, Cisco, over a post critical of Ward and attorney Eric Albritton. [Prior Art blog via ATL] I couldn’t find the complaint on-line, but I’ll track it down over the weekend. Earlier: Feb. 26; earlier in the series.
Just as I was about to say I needed to revise my top-ten blog list to include the excellent anony-blogger Patent Troll-Tracker, I learned from today’s Recorder and WSJ that he has revealed himself as Rick Frenkel, Cisco IP attorney.
When I started the blog, I did so mainly out of frustration. I was shocked to learn that a huge portion of the tech industry’s patent disputes were with companies that were shells, with little cash and assets other than patents and a desire to litigate, and did not make and had never made any products. Yet when I would search the Internet for information about these putative licensors, I could find nothing. I was frustrated by the lack of information, and also by the vast array of anti-patent-reform bloggers out there, without a voice supporting what I did believe and still believe is meaningful reform.
(For the record, I liked the blog even before they praised me.) Plaintiffs’ attorney Ray Niro had put a bounty on the identity of the Troll Tracker, who had been critical of Niro’s tactics (as have Walter and I). Frenkel is considering shutting down his blog now that he is out of the closet; one hopes someone else picks up the torch, because he was performing a valuable service, to the extent that I had limited my blogging about it because he had the subject-area covered so well.
I missed the debate in November among Dennis Crouch, Michael Smith, and Frenkel on whether the Eastern District of Texas is “waning” as a magnet jurisdiction for patent plaintiffs (May 2006, Dec. 2005, Jan. 2005), or I might have made reference to it in my latest Liability Outlook on patent reform. Frenkel seems to have the best of that debate, and follows up:
Let’s highlight one really outstanding statistic from November: The number of defendants sued in the Eastern District of Texas in November 2007: 244. The number of defendants sued in Los Angeles, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, New York City, Chicago, Delaware, and New Jersey combined in November 2007: 162.
Patent lawyers often seem to be of a different stripe than other lawyers, and there is a similar patent-law-blogging community largely separate from the other law-bloggers. The commenters go mad at Crouch’s blog over the Frenkel revelation because Cisco is a strong patent reform supporter. Elsewhere: IPBiz; TechDailyDose; NetworkWorld; 271Blog; Mises Blog; and the anti-reform Patent Prospector.
“In the last several years, patent lawyers have flocked to Marshall, a small northeastern Texas town of 25,000, because of its speedy court process, patent-enthusiastic judges and juries considered ideal for hearing intellectual property cases. This year alone, the court has seen 59 patent cases, more than triple the total in 2003, which saw just 14 patent suits.” Intel made a $150 million payout after adverse rulings by a Marshall judge, and Cisco is currently being sued in what plaintiff’s lawyers hope will be a big-payout case.
Among those who defend the venue against critics is Charles Baker of Houston’s Porter & Hedges, who concedes “that some defense attorneys are afraid to try cases there because of its pro-plaintiff reputation, which he disagrees with. He said that the [court’s] rocket docket also turns off some defense lawyers who feel pressured to produce evidence quickly, leaving little time for preparation.” Curiouser and curiouser: “Baker said that Marshall’s large elderly population also provides a good jury pool for intellectual property cases. ‘There are a lot of old people who don’t have a problem with sitting weeks at a time and listening to complicated issues,’ Baker said.” (Tresa Baldas, “Texas IP Rocket Docket Headed for Burnout?”, National Law Journal, Dec. 28)
For a very different view of the reasons for Marshall’s popularity, check out M. Craig Tyler (Wilson Sonsini), “Patent Pirates Search for Texas Treasure”, Texas Lawyer, Sept. 20 (PDF): “Juries in East Texas, unlike those in Houston, Dallas or Austin, are much less likely to have a member with any technical training or education, which exacerbates the problem from the defense perspective, but makes East Texas federal courts an attractive venue for would-be plaintiffs, who know that the jury will, instead, gravitate toward softer or superficial issues that are difficult to predict.” The result is to facilitate the activities of what Tyler calls “patent pirates”: enterprises that exist to file patent suits rather than to manufacture products, and which benefit from asymmetrical costs of litigation (discovery in a patent case can cost the manufacturer-defendant a million dollars or more, while the plaintiff license-holder may have few or no documents worth discovering).
According to Tyler, a “simple, nonspecific complaint”, which need not identify any infringing products sold by the defendant, “has a nuisance value of a few hundred thousand dollars the minute it is filed and served.” Tyler’s outspoken article in turn drew a response: Michael C. Smith, “”Patent Pirates” Only Exist in Neverland”, Texas Lawyer, Oct. 10 (PDF).