- “IP Lawyer Who Spotted Expired Patent on Solo Cup Lid Loses Quest for Trillions in Damages” [ABA Journal, earlier on “false markings” suits here, here, etc.]
- Like we’re surprised: Linda Greenhouse favors sentimental (“Poor Joshua!”) side in 1989 DeShaney case and hopes Elena Kagan does too [NYT Opinionator, my take a few years back]
- Why is Le Monde in financial trouble? For one thing, firing a printing plant employee costs €466,000 [Frédéric Filloux, Monday Note via MargRev]
- “Will these salt peddlers stop at nothing?” Michael Kinsley on NYT sodium-as-next-tobacco coverage [Atlantic Wire]
- “‘Victim’ Gets $4.17 Coupon, Lawyers Get $10 Million Cash”: Expedia class action settlement [John Frith, California Civil Justice Blog]
- Scruggs investigation finally over as feds drop probe of political operative P.L. Blake; several figures in Mississippi scandal are up for release soon from prison [Jackson Clarion Ledger]
- $20 billion Gulf spill fund: “Oil Gushes and Power Rushes” [Sullum, Althouse]
- “NYC Naked Cowboy to Naked Cowgirl: Stop copying me” [AP]
- “Wisconsin law prof has name legally changed to Mitch — just Mitch” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via Obscure Store]
- Undue encumbrance? “Developers Trying To Treat Houses Like Copyright; Want A Cut Of Every Future Resale” [Techdirt]
- It seems the anonymous online comments were made from the judge’s online account [Cleveland Plain Dealer] More: ABA Journal.
- NLJ reports on surge of patent false marking suits [earlier here, here, here, etc.]
- Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, often mentioned in this space, will resign to run for Arizona attorney general [KPHO]
- NY Times last month: those awful meanies who criticize litigation are going to harp on hot chicken sandwich case [WSJ Law Blog] You mean like…?
- “British Libel Reform: Finally to Be a Reality?” [Citizen Media Law]
- Trademark case settlement: “North Face, South Butt Agree to Turn Other Cheek” [Baxter, American Lawyer, earlier here and here]
If the comprehensive patent reform amendment announced today is passed, qui tam plaintiffs who have been hunting for expired patent numbers to bring false marking suits will be out of luck. Only “competitive[ly] injure[d]” parties will be able to sue for false marking. The Senate bill, if enacted, would have sweeping retroactive effect even for still-pending but earlier-filed actions.
In June we reported on a boomlet in freelance lawsuits accusing companies of marking their products with outdated patent numbers or with other violations of a federal statute that prohibits the use of false or misleading patent marks on products. On December 28 the Federal Circuit issued a decision that may greatly stimulate the activities of what are already being called “marking trolls”. It holds that courts have discretion to impose the law’s $500 penalty per mislabeled item sold, which means that total penalties might rise to gigantic levels; lawyers who bring the cases then split the proceeds with the federal government in qui tam fashion. Coverage: George Best and Jeffrey Simmons/Foley & Lardner, Robert Matthews, Jr., Patently-O, Rebecca Tushnet and more, Patent Prospector.
Annals of bounty-hunting: “A recent ruling on an obscure, century-old statute has opened the door for people familiar with the finer points of patent law to sue companies that stamp their products with expired patent numbers.” Washington, D.C. patent attorney Matthew Pequignot “noticed the patent marks on the lid to his daily cup of coffee, did some research and found that the lid’s maker, Solo Cup Co., was continuing to claim patent protections for disposable lids that had expired nearly 20 years ago.” So he’s sued Solo and E.D. Va. federal judge Leonie Brinkema has allowed his case to go forward, ruling that the requisite harm to the government is satisfied because the government’s laws against “false markings” were violated. (A federal judge in New York, however, ruled differently on the harm-to-government issue in a recent case with similar facts.) Pequignot has offered to settle the Solo suit for $9 million and has sued Gillette on similar theories; the bounty-hunting law allows claimants to keep half of the recovery.
Pequignot, for his part, says he does not expect an avalanche of false markings lawsuits, despite the fact that [attorney Raymond] Stauffer and some others have already followed in his footsteps. He said that, even as a patent attorney, it took him many hours of research to be able to file his lawsuit.