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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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  • Why? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:20PM (#22550020)
    So why did the judge reverse? I always thought that the Jury was the "trier of fact".
    Aha, first post?
  • No impact on patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:23PM (#22550068)
    Frivolous cases, of all kinds, are often struck down with costs. No reason to think this will have any significant impact on patents, any more than on other laws.
  • Re:And now... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:31PM (#22550196) Journal
    You commented kind of on what I was thinking. When is someone going to get hit with a suit for abusing copyright? After all, we can outwait patents, which only last 20 years. Copyrights are forever, or as close to forever as can matter to anyone still breathing.
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:32PM (#22550210) Journal
    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.

    Perhaps there's a clearer report out there?
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by milsoRgen (1016505) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:32PM (#22550216) Homepage

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

    "Judge Matsch does some things that are out there, but he's usually right. Very infrequently is he reversed on appeal."
    It says he is rarely revesred... But the "out there" part certainly gives me pause for thought.
    However this guy has done some cool things, like halting clean dvd edits [findlaw.com], he was involved in the McViegh trail [cnn.com] and even the Kobe Bryant trial among other things [nytimes.com] .
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@g m a i l .com> on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:34PM (#22550250) Journal
    The exact opposite is what happened here; a bunch of slick, highly paid lawyers smooth-talked the jury, and then the judge tossed the jury verdict and stuck the plaintiff with the costs for their litigation.

    This kind of thing is most common when the lawyers get out of control...If the judge decides that the lawyers are running amok, they can throw the whole thing out and charge them with contempt or whatever. There is some precedent in also tossing cases where the juries decision contravenes the material facts of the case, but that's a much greyer area, though it has been upheld more often than not.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:35PM (#22550274)
    It's significant because typically the lawyers aren't the ones paying the opposing team's costs. Usually, the lawyers always win every trial, because they get paid no matter what. If you punish the lawyers themselves for going ahead with cases they know are frivolous, then you'll start to see far, far fewer lawyers taking frivolous cases.
  • by CajunArson (465943) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:37PM (#22550292) Journal
    The article notes that the technology here is for guiding scalpels to do precision work on brain tumors, so the subject matter is highly technical in nature. I'd like to see what the actual patents involved are before making a judgment. This case might have come down to the (apparently off the wall) behavior of the lawyers, even if the plaintiff may have had a legitimate case.
        One thing you have to remember is that (with rare exceptions) the court is only going to go with the arguments that each side presents. It is not the judge's or jury's job to go out and collect evidence and make up a decision, it is instead their job to decide the case based on the evidence actually submitted and arguments actually made by opposing parties (this is called the "adversarial system"). Even if the plaintiff may have had a case, if these lawyers went out and did a completely shitty job of presenting it, presented no real evidence, and made no real legal arguments, then they can and will lose the case. The extra sanctions here are quite unusual, and go beyond the negative consequences of just not doing a good job of lawyering. I think that these "respected litigators" were probably ignoring the judge's instructions and committing other infractions that REALLY pissed the judge off. On appeal, the court does NOT hear new facts, so the appeals court went with the factual record and judgment of the District Court judge on this one.
  • by esocid (946821) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:43PM (#22550380) Journal

    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 believe that is partially the point. They wasted the court's time by pursuing a case that was baseless and had no grounds by simply trying to litigate the other company out of existence. The prosecuting lawyers acting like arrogant fools trying to make a buck in the world of patent trolling. But just for fun here is another link to the story [abajournal.com] and the judge's ruling (PDF) [amlaw.com].
  • Re:Why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by stratjakt (596332) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:52PM (#22550504) Journal
    It's there when the jury, despite irrefutable evidence of innocence, decides to come in with a guilty plea, because the defendant happens to be the wrong color/sex/religion/whathaveyou. Or, when they're basically bamboozled by a slick-talking lawyer. Basically, the Judge is tasked with making sure the jury does its job properly, and if they don't, he can toss their verdict.

    This, and the Judges discretion during sentencing, are very, very crucially important checks and balances in our justice system.

    Mandatory sentences, three-strike laws, and other such populist "think of the children" bullcrap removes those checks and balances, so now you have people going to jail for 25 years for jaywalking, and maybe we can even return to the era of all-white juries sentencing every nigger that comes in front of them.

    GO TEAM DEMOCRAT LETS SAVE AMERICA WITH HOPE AND CHANGE

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday February 25, 2008 @04:59PM (#22550564) Homepage Journal
    The judge should have been able to set against the frivolous lawyers a "strike" that would add up towards disbarment if they did it again. Given repeated frivolity found by courts, lawyers should get a warning, a fine, a suspension and finally disbarment as the strikes accumulate over time, perhaps resetting once a year or 5 or 10 or 20 if not repeated. Perhaps several strikes assigned at once when the frivolity is really serious and the judge wants to push them towards disbarment, or out completely.

    Then lawyers will be a lot more careful about flooding the courts with these worthless cases just because they have nothing better to do (and the client pays). That's their sworn job anyway, as "officers of the court", but they don't honor that oath without teeth when they break it - they're lawyers. And for those who see good cases get rejected just because they're not open/shut for lazy lawyers, that kind of refusal is also grounds for suing lawyers; suits in which the judges typically look very critically on the lawyers who should be staying out of trouble. Maybe that counterbalance needs stronger teeth, too, but there's certainly plenty of ways to get these lawyers to respect the merits of a case, whether trying or refusing it.
  • by infonography (566403) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:00PM (#22550594) Homepage
    If anyone fits the bill of useless waster of Judicial time, it's Jack Thompson. I think that EA might have unleashed him on Take Two to soften them up for a takeover.

    (just kidding)

    Still there is proof he is useless http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Thompson_(attorney) [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:And now... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hedwards (940851) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:34PM (#22550964)

    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.
    This sort of things is one of the things that I wanted the Blu-ray and HD-DVDs to provide. Basically the content would still be there, but people that didn't want to view it could change a setting and those things would be skipped. Kind of like a V-Chip, but far less likely to make mistakes. Bonus points if there were a way for individuals to create their own cut points to avoid things they're uncomfortable with. I've got a few things myself that I don't want to see in movies.

    It really does seem like a fair compromise, people that don't want to view the material would have an easy way of avoiding it, and the people that do could do so. It would also make it quite a bit easier to separate out the "please, won't somebody, think of the children" crowd from the people that just don't want their own kids watching it.

    If they really wanted to buff up the bottom line, they could probably make a feature which would do the opposite, skip all the wholesome stuff and get straight to the T&A and B&G.
  • Re:out is i? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hedwards (940851) on Monday February 25, 2008 @05:44PM (#22551056)
    Unfortunately, right now, "Out there" could very well mean exercising some degree of intelligence and common sense.

    With over 200 years of laws stacking on top of each other, stacked upon a constitution which was written vaguely in places and ammended nearly 30 times, which borrows some concepts from completely outside of those sources, it is definitely possible to justify most positions with enough technicalities.

    The 2nd ammendment is a good example.

    A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
    That is taken by many people to mean that it is unconstitutional to regulate firearms. But the word firearm doesn't appear anywhere in it, nor does a word which logically extends there unambiguously. One could easily say that rights from individuals owning muskets to hydrogen bombs and mutated anthrax for duck hunting and right to form up a militia to overthrow the federal government are protected there. Almost, if not all, people will find at least one thing in that list which they don't think people should be allowed to own or possess. But those are all things which could be inferred to be protected if one wasn't utilizing enough common sense.

    In this case, it sounds to me like the judge got tired of the plaintiff's attorneys disregarding courtroom procedure and tainting the results. I've often felt that judges weren't going anywhere near far enough to enforce profesional conduct in the courtroom. I'm a little bit surprised that he didn't bother to reference rule 13, IIRC.

    &Standard IANAL clause;

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