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Zealous Advocacy, or Abuse of Advocacy?

by Lee Gesmer on October 11, 2008

In the Medtronic v. BrainLab patent litigation in U.S. District Court in Colorado, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch has sanctioned Medtronic Navigation, Inc. and its lawyers $4.3 million, an amount which represents part of the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by BrainLab in defending this case. This order is a follow-up to his decision last February ordering that Medtronic be sanctioned, but not deciding (at that time) the precise amount of the sanction.

Unusual circumstances led to this disaster for Medtronic and its counsel. As many readers of this blog know, the judge, not the jury, determines the scope of the patent claims in patent litigation. This is done by the judge before trial, in what is often referred to as a “Markman hearing.” The name of the hearing is based on the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Markman v. Westview, which held that patent “claim interpretation” is the province of the judge, not the jury.… Read the full article

. . . the Supreme Court can only decide a couple of patent cases even in a banner year. And, many important patent issues may be so obscure as to discourage its generalist judges from addressing them. The rest, necessarily, are left to us. We have the expertise and the will to resolve doctrinal problems. What we lack is mainly the opportunity. Why for example did it take a full decade to revisit State Street? Because no one asked us to until recently. The same can be said of the central issue decided in KSR. It was never simply presented to us in a petition for en banc treatment. Oddly, we receive over a hundred a year. Yet few raise such fundamental issues as eligible subject matter under §101, or the Teaching-Suggestion-Motivation test, or the proper methodology for assessing requests for the permanent injunction, or barring them, future damages.

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