October 2007

The Massachusetts "Guide" to Evidence

by Lee Gesmer on October 16, 2007

Courts, Litigation. Back in the early 1980s, when I was new to the Massachusetts Bar, there was an effort by the organized bar to codify the rules of evidence. That effort failed, and to this day the rules of evidence are a confusing patchwork of common law and legislative enactment. The “go to” source for the law of evidence has been, in the memory of almost all living Massachusetts attorneys, the Handbook of Massachusetts Evidence (8th Ed. 2006), by the former Chief Judge of the Supreme Judicial Court, Paul Liacos, and currently edited by Mark Brodin and Michael Avery. (The previous editions of this work were published in 1940, 1948, 1956, 1967 (when Justice Liacos took over), 1981 and 1993). However, the long-dead phoenix of evidence codification may be rising from the ashes, albeit in a slightly different form. In 2006 the SJC established an advisory committee to develop a “Guide” to evidence (not to be confused with “Rules” of evidence), and that Guide is now in its proposed form.… Read the full article

That, Sir, Depends What You Mean by "Willful"

by Lee Gesmer on October 15, 2007

Patent Law. Patent lawyers and their clients spend a lot of time worrying about willfulnesss. If a patent is infringed and the infringement is “willful,” the consequences can include treble damages and liability for the patent owner’s attorneys fees. The idea of paying the other side’s legal fees can be a terrifying prospect for most patent infringement defendants. Think of it as writing a blank check to your opponent’s lawyers.

To avoid this fate, a lot of time and money is spent before the fact on “clearance opinions”, that is, an opinion of a patent lawyer that a particular item or process does not infringe pending or issued patents. A good opinion (meaning an opinion by competent counsel, who is given all relevant information, and who conducts the analysis in advance of any legal claim or threat) is often viewed as an insurance policy when it comes to wilfullness. After all, if reputable counsel has told you that your product doesn’t infringe a patent, what more could you possibly do to establish that you have not willfully infringed?… Read the full article