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Judge Makes Lawyers Pay For Frivolous Patent Suit 263

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-making-partner-anytime-soon dept.
Gallenod writes "The Denver Post is reporting that the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the decision of a Federal judge who threw out and reversed a jury decision in favor of a patent infringement claim and ordered the plaintiff's lawyers to pay the defendants' court costs. U.S. District Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch sanctioned the plaintiff's attorneys for 'cavalier and abusive' misconduct and for having a 'what can I get away with?' attitude during a 13-day patent infringement trial in Denver. With the Appeals Court in agreement, could this case be the 'shot heard round the world' in the revolution against patent trolls?"
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Judge Makes Lawyers Pay For Frivolous Patent Suit

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  • Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:21PM (#22550042) Journal
    I never thought this one would stand up to appeal...The judge threw out the jury verdict and then made the plaintiff pay the court costs. Read that again: he threw out the jury verdict.

    And the appeals court backed him up! Holy crap! I guess that's one way to deal with stupid juries and slick lawyers...Get some decent judges who aren't willing to put up with the crap.
  • by newgalactic (840363) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:25PM (#22550094)
    Law is a slow beast to change, by design. Technology will advance much faster then Law. As a result, we'll continue to see issues like the one we face with "patent infringement". But, Law does eventually change to correct itself. I'm relieved to see that things are working as they should.
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pheared (446683) <kevinNO@SPAMpheared.net> on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:26PM (#22550114) Homepage
    How is that the same? The small label wouldn't be "patent trolling" since they would have a legitimate claim. They also wouldn't be displaying a let's see what we can get away with attitude. The judge made the kind of impartial corrective action they are supposed to make. If anything, this sets precedent for less frivolous lawsuits.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:30PM (#22550192) Journal
    Indeed. I don't see why this is all that revolutionary. It was a patent infringement trial, which gets our attention, but it simply appears to be a judge who felt that the jury was out to lunch and that the plaintiff's lawyers were playing games and wasting the court's time. In short, they pissed off a judge even after being given instructions, and he's responded.
  • by Linker3000 (626634) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:47PM (#22550452) Journal
    "could this case be the 'shot heard round the world' in the revolution against patent trolls?"

    Not until/unless (take your pick) US legal jurisdiction extends round the world - on an official level!

  • Re:And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pizzutz (1175903) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:49PM (#22550468) Homepage

    If this is held up through appeals,
    That is exactly what worries me, as FTA:
    Also from TFA:

    "The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals saw it differently and affirmed Matsch's decision to overturn the verdict."

    This has already gone through the appeals court. While they could go to the supreme court, I suspect it's done and over.
  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:50PM (#22550488)
    Reading the article (gasp!) left me with the impression that the Judge was ticked off because of the attorney's behavior and method of prosecuting their case and not that the Judge thought the patents were bogus. It's as if the plaintiff is getting nailed because it hired a pair of SOB's to press its case.

    I read the same article. That's not how I read it. There were apparently 2 problems.
    1) The lawsuit was frivolous and that caused the judge to set aside the jury verdict. The jury blew it, but they usually do in patent cases.
    2) The attorneys acted in a bad manner, disregarding some specific instructions from the judge and proceeding onward in a case which the judge felt should never have gone to trial. But that is what attorneys do, as they know sometimes when you roll the dice, a stupid jury goes your way.

    Judges don't like their time being wasted - at all. I see only good coming from this.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:10PM (#22550706)
    If we had "loser pays" for all civil cases the certain result would be that only rich people and companies could sue anyone.

    Average Joe: I want to sue MegaFoodCorp.
    Lawyer: Why?
    Average Joe: There was glass in the food I bought from them. It severally cut my throat and stomach, I had to be rushed to hospital for surgery. I missed 3 weeks of work and lost my job. Now I have $80,000 hospital bill that I can't pay. Also since I lost my job my house is in forclosure and my wife left me.
    Lawyer: They will spend at least a million bucks defending themselves. Since we have a loser-pays system in this state, you'll need to put a million dollars in escrow just in case we lose. But it sounds like you have no money. Too bad. Sucks to be you.

  • Re:And now... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HeronBlademaster (1079477) <heron@xnapid.com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:14PM (#22550746) Homepage
    What's so cool about halting clean dvd edits? Do you find it morally objectionable to remove morally objectionable content from movies?

    For example, I like the Matrix trilogy, but there is a completely unnecessary sex scene in the second movie. Is it your intent to force all who would wish to watch the movie to view that scene? Even "fast forwarding" still gives you glimpses, interrupts the flow of the movie, and requires either good timing or a quick backtrack-rewind to resume the movie after the scene.

    Many movies are like this. If I want to see a movie without what many consider objectionable material, why are movie studios fighting this? Wouldn't they be better off releasing a clean version of the movie themselves, and keep the profit? But since they refuse to do this, then I do not think that there is anything wrong with editing a movie to clean it up.

    More to the point, networks and cable stations do this regularly to air movies on TV. Rather than prohibit *other* people from editing movies, movie studios should do what they do for networks - provide a license to edit the movie.

    Prohibiting things like this does nothing but reduce movie studios' monetary gains. I, for one, won't see movies that have objectionable material unless I can either buy an edited version or see it on TV (where it is edited anyway).

    I'm not saying that someone should be able to buy one copy of a DVD, edit it, and sell dozens or hundreds of burned copies. I propose that every edited copy be sold attached to an original - that way the studios get their sales money. The price could be somewhat higher than the price of the original alone, to compensate the editors for their work. Additionally, whoever does the editing should need a license (or some other form of permission) from the movie studio for each movie they edit.

    Prohibiting the editing of movies altogether is not the answer.
  • Re:And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by milsoRgen (1016505) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:27PM (#22550890) Homepage

    What's so cool about halting clean dvd edits? Do you find it morally objectionable to remove morally objectionable content from movies?
    Yes I do find that objectionable. I find intolerance of natural human functions in the media objectionable. If you can't handle it, don't watch it.

    Prohibiting the editing of movies altogether is not the answer.
    Yes it is the answer. Get over yourself.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:30PM (#22550922) Homepage

    After presiding over the 13-day trial, Matsch wrote that McDermott's lawyers not only disregarded his instructions during the trial but argued "with full awareness that their case was without merit."
    (IANAL). If the lawyers disregarded the judge's instructions, shouldn't the judge have found them in contempt of court and declared a mistrial? It seems like waiting until the jury came to a decision and then overturning it doesn't result in a fair verdict.
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zmooc (33175) <zmoocNO@SPAMzmooc.net> on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:33PM (#22550958) Homepage
    So half the movie is about killing various people, people that are locked up in a slimy bath for their entire life and people's life being controlled by robots and you actually dare complaining that the sex scene is "unneccessary" while all those other disgusting parts aren't?

    What is wrong with you? Do you hate to be distracted by love while watching violence? To me you appear like a very, very sick person.
  • Re:And now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AmaDaden (794446) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:39PM (#22550998)

    After all, we can outwait patents, which only last 20 years.
    That's part of the problem. With the way things are now people are getting patents to last for nearly a hundred years. Until people like this judge and others start fighting back it's only gonna get worse. I'm not saying all patents are bad but I am personally afraid that if I started to generate my own content that my little start up would be patent trolled out of existence. There needs to be a balance to prevent both patent trolls and pirates. Currently the patent trolls have all the power.
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by orgelspieler (865795) <w0lfieNO@SPAMmac.com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:42PM (#22551046) Journal
    I don't care whether you find the sex scene objectionable or not. Copyright law does not have an exception to the "derivative works" clause that allows for such modifications. Modified versions reduce the marketability of officially edited versions released for other purposes. Take Sex and the City, for instance. There are several scenes that were critical to the plot of an episode, but were "objectionable" to certain puritanical people (who apparently wield an inordinate amount of power over the FCC). Consequently, they shot several scenes twice, basically anything with breasts or a lot of cursing. One shot was for DVD and HBO, and the alternative version was for the whiners. Though, if you ask me, anybody old enough to watch Sex and the City is old enough to see the sex scenes and the occasional tit. Anyway, it allowed the writers and directors some flexibility over how the episodes were sliced and diced.

    Returning to the Matrix: did you see how the original Matrix was edited for TV? Instead of "give you the finger" it was "Why don't I give you the flipper." WTF does that even mean? If I were the W bros. I'd have been a bit ticked. Also the sex scene in th sequel was tastefully done, and I thought it added a bit of gravity and beauty to what would have otherwise been a ridiculous rave scene.

  • Re:And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by VisceralLogic (911294) <paul AT viscerallogic DOT com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:46PM (#22551090) Homepage

    What's so cool about halting clean dvd edits? Do you find it morally objectionable to remove morally objectionable content from movies?
    Yes I do find that objectionable. I find intolerance of natural human functions in the media objectionable. If you can't handle it, don't watch it.

    Why shouldn't people be able to watch it as they want to watch it?

    Prohibiting the editing of movies altogether is not the answer.
    Yes it is the answer. Get over yourself.

    Let me guess... you're also against fast-forward, rewind, ad-skip in TiVo, and anything and everything else that allows consumers to watch content as they wish to do so?

  • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phliar (87116) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:46PM (#22551092) Homepage

    Jury is an outrageous abuse of both democracy and legal system. It is basically a competition between lawyers who will manipulate better the ignorant randomly selected civilians.

    Only because some citizens do everything possible to not get on a jury. As the old joke goes, juries are made up of people too stupid to get out of jury duty. (How many times have you done your civic duty and served on a jury?)

    If we picked our government at random from the citizens things wouldn't be as fucked up as they are today.

  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    What's so cool about halting clean dvd edits? Do you find it morally objectionable to remove morally objectionable content from movies?

    Ummm... the fact that Clean/Family flix - who held no rights in the movies they were redistributing - was redistributing copyrighted material for money in direct violation of the copyright holders' rights?

    If you find the content morally objectionable, how is it more moral to buy an edited version from someone who has no right to sell it? It seems to me that the best thing you can do is vote with your wallet and not buy it.

    And if that is too extreme for your tests, I respectfully suggest that you don't see that content as nearly so "objectionable" as you make it out to be.

    Wouldn't they be better off releasing a clean version of the movie themselves, and keep the profit? But since they refuse to do this, then I do not think that there is anything wrong with editing a movie to clean it up.
    Yes, I'm sure they would. But that's their choice -- and they're under no obligation to give away their work for another company to profit off of, if they choose not to do it.

    Prohibiting the editing of movies altogether is not the answer.

    The courts prohibited only using copyrighted material without permissions, which is after all what copyright is for. Whether the owner of the copyright wishes to allow a company to PAY for the rights to do what Clean Flix wanted to do is entirely up to the owner(s). The court is quite correct in stating that it has no say in it.

  • by king-manic (409855) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:56PM (#22551218)
    Insightful my ass: The lose pays system exists in Canada and it has not become a system where only the rich can use the system. There exists programs like Legal-aid which defuse costs to those unable to pay. If you lose a civil suit and must pay costs, the judge has some leeway as to how much can be charged to a person losing a suit. It works in Canada why the hell wouldn't it work in the US? the only losers are Lawyers who would pursue frivolous lawsuits.
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by milsoRgen (1016505) on Monday February 25, 2008 @06:02PM (#22551302) Homepage

    Why shouldn't people be able to watch it as they want to watch it?
    They should watch it as the people who created intended it, first and foremost.

    Let me guess... you're also against fast-forward, rewind, ad-skip in TiVo, and anything and everything else that allows consumers to watch content as they wish to do so?
    No go ahead and watch it as you will with the tools you have at your own disposal, but I am not going to be happy with companies making a profit off of someone elses IP that they have butchered just to pander to the Ned Flanders of the world.

    Lastly perhaps the issue at hand is why anyone would find human sexuality so offensive they need to engage in censorship? Is it a religious thing? Ashamed of your own body/sexuality thing? I have trouble understanding it. Perhaps that's why it seems so outrageous to me.

    I realize my personal stance is a bit on the other extreme end, what consenting people decide to do is fine by me. Wanna hunt humans and make it a televised sport? Fine by me. Want graphic all male orgies to go with that 6 o'clock news cast? Fine by me. The day people understand that violence and sex are part of the human condition and nature as whole will be the day we can really start moving forward as society.
  • by kalirion (728907) on Monday February 25, 2008 @06:27PM (#22551566)
    Who decides what's "frivolous"? Is it the same people who decide what's "obscene"?
  • Re:And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pavon (30274) on Monday February 25, 2008 @06:35PM (#22551678)
    How do your examples about the government forcing censorship on a company have anything to do with people choosing to purchase edited version done by a third party?

    And I'm sorry but there are no financial justifications for this - allowing a third party to release censored versions increases total sales and total profits, period. The only legitimate objection is to preserve the integrity of ones artistic vision.
  • Re:And now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxwell demon (590494) on Monday February 25, 2008 @06:41PM (#22551750) Journal

    They should watch it as the people who created intended it, first and foremost.

    So I don't have a right to decide what I want to see, but only the content creator has?

    I agree that I should be able to see it the way the creator intended it. But if for some strange reason I decide I want to see a movie with every first word of a sentence removed, I don't see why I shouldn't be allowed to. And if someone provides me the service to do the tedious work of removing all those first words, then why should they not get payed for their work.

    Am I also not allowed to e.g. add some salt to an ordered Pizza if I consider it to have too little of it, because I'm not tasting it the way the creators intended?
  • Re:And now... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday February 25, 2008 @07:42PM (#22552494)


    But the sooner we ditch these archaic concepts ingrained in the major monotheistic religions the better off we will be.

    Yeah, look how much better off people were in Stalin's Soviet Union, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia. We will all be so much better off when we get rid of those archaic ideas of human dignity and the worth of individuals ingrained in Judaism and Christianity. /s
    Learn a little something from history. Every political movement that has attempted to build a society without religion has resulted in horrific mistreatment of human beings.
    I wonder if anyone else notices how intolerant you are of people who have different beliefs from yourself?
  • Re:And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by initialE (758110) on Monday February 25, 2008 @07:57PM (#22552680)
    On the one hand, they could be acting on their clients explicit instructions, making the plaintiff directly at fault here. On the other hand, they ought to know better, and inform their client that there are lines they aren't supposed to cross. Either way, this is good news. Hopefully it will either lead to less people willing to bring frivolous suits, or less lawyers being willing to represent them.

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

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