Are Patent Damages Uncertain?

Michael Mazzeo, Jonathan Hillel, & Samantha Zyontz, Explaining the “Unpredictable”: An Empirical Analysis of Patent Infringement Awards, 35 Int’l Rev. of L. & Econ. 58 (2013).

A recent American Bar Association “Corporate Counsel” seminar styled itself as “The Uncertain Arena: Claims for Damages and Injunctive Relief in the Unpredictable World of IP Litigation.” The seminar began by recounting the seemingly surprising, $1 billion-plus damage awards in the patent infringement actions, Carnegie Mellon v. Marvell Technology, Apple v. Samsung, and Monsanto v. DuPont. These blockbuster awards stand in stark contrast to the usual awards of $20 million or less in a typical case.

By and large, in-house counsel have chalked up much of these differences to the luck of the draw. Such a sentiment is all-too-common not only among practitioners, but also among policymakers and academics. No less than the eminent IP scholar Mark Lemley has remarked, “Patent damages are unpredictable because the criteria most commonly used are imprecise and difficult to apply.”

Mazzeo, Hillel, and Zyontz make an impressive contribution to the literature by casting substantial doubt on such views. Specifically, in their recent empirical study of district court patent infringement judgments between 1995 and 2008, they show that patent damages can be explained in a large part by a fairly small number of patent-, litigant-, and court-related factors. Continue reading "Are Patent Damages Uncertain?"

 
 

Against Equality

There appears to be a certain irony in writing in the Equality Section about a book produced by a group called “Against Equality”. But while their name may initially create an image of a reactionary conservative group trying to stem the tide of progressive social change, their agenda is to highlight and critique the inherent conservatism of the apparently liberal “gay rights” claims of equal marriage, equal military service, and equal protection under the law in the form of hate crime statutes. There is a great deal of feminist and queer scholarship making similar points but it has been too easy for gay rights campaigning groups, such as the deeply conservative Human Rights Campaign in the US, to by-pass any real engagement with this scholarship, much of which is inaccessible to the general public due to expensive paywalls. With this anthology, which includes both activist and academic writers, the Against Equality collective seeks to “be sure that our voices of resistance are not erased and written out of history“.

The anthology brings together three books, previously self-published: Against Equality: Queer Critiques of Gay Marriage (2010); Against Equality: Don’t Ask to Fight Their Wars (2011); and Against Equality: Prisons Will Not Protect You (2012). In each volume Conrad brings together a diverse collection of essays drawn from a variety of sources from zines, to blogs, to Facebook posts, and journal articles. Some of these contributions would already be familiar to an academic audience, others may not be, but all are interesting and impassioned refutations of a liberal reformist agenda that fails to properly challenge the underlying economic as well as gender, race, and class power structures. Continue reading "Against Equality"

 
 

Can Information Technology Save Health Care?

Nicolas P. Terry, Information Technology’s Failure to Disrupt Health Care, 13 Nev. L.J. 722 (2013).

The massive stimulus bill of 2009 included the HITECH Act, by which Congress pledged roughly $30 billion to encourage providers to adopt electronic health records and other health information technologies (HIT). The bill cited a long list of familiar but elusive policy goals—improve health care quality, reduce medical errors, reduce health disparities, control costs, reduce inefficiencies, improve public health, promote competition, increase consumer choice. If the health policy literature had a fantasy genre, the HITECH Act solving our health system’s problems through a new nationwide HIT infrastructure would feature prominently.

But a few years later, as Nicolas Terry observes, and “HIT still appears to be a large rock that only a few dedicated converts are pushing up a steep and expensive hill.” Why is that? Why wouldn’t our lumbering, dysfunctional, and fantastically expensive health care system be transformed by information technology like so many other industries? Doesn’t our health care system practically beg for the efficiencies of information technology? Terry’s article, Information Technology’s Failure to Disrupt Health Care, tries to answer these questions. Continue reading "Can Information Technology Save Health Care?"

 
 

Violence, Yearning, and Hope

If you seek inspiration in these times of debilitating negativity toward the law and lawyers, read Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove. A student who represents the best in the law’s future gave me the book. The gift was far greater than the bound pages or the pleasure of an engrossing weekend. It was a renewal of awe at what the law and lawyers can do to rescue people and change hardened minds and hearts in atmospheres of fear, loathing, and violence.

After Devil in the Grove has inspired you with its excellent history of our recent past, I recommend reading works by two outstanding junior scholars, Allegra M. McLeod and Daniel I. Morales, who are imagining our future. What I love about all three works are the accounts of how law can save as well as destroy and the lessons about how to change mindsets, not just the laws on the books. Continue reading "Violence, Yearning, and Hope"

 
 

Discovery and Democracy

Gillian K. Hadfield & Dan Ryan, Democracy, Courts and the Information Order, 54 European J. of Sociology 67 (2013), available at SSRN.

Discovery has a bad name, and the reason for that is something of a mystery. It certainly isn’t careful empirical evidence. Decades of research have consistently demonstrated that discovery is used appropriately and that in the vast majority of cases its costs are proportionate to the stakes in the lawsuit. Most recently, the Federal Judicial Center’s 2009 study of thousands of closed cases (chosen to maximize the likelihood of discovery) found that at the median, the reported costs of discovery, including attorney’s fees, was just 1.6% of stakes of the case for plaintiffs and only 3.3% for defendants. Discovery’s benefits are harder to quantify, but mutual access to relevant information surely leads to case outcomes that more accurately reflect legal norms. Yet the Advisory Committee on the Civil Rules is once again proposing rule amendments that would limit discovery.

The public discovery debate focuses almost entirely on the instrumental value of discovery to litigants. There are, however, other significant reasons for using the power of courts to compel information exchange. Judicial process as process is crucial to the legitimacy of the legal system because citizens must perceive it to be trustworthy and fair. Hadfield and Ryan’s Democracy, Courts, and the Information Order articulates how the discovery process is fundamental to American democracy: civil courts serve as a place where litigants are formally treated as equals in their ability to demand the sharing of relevant information, even from entities with far more political or economic power in society. The experience of participating in the discovery process is thus part of the “phenomenology of democracy”– the lived experience of being treated as an equal among equals. (P. 88-89.) Continue reading "Discovery and Democracy"

 
 

Drama and Consequence in Accounting Standards Choice (Seriously)

The value of interdisciplinary work is on display in this article by two Dutch policy scholars: the subject matter is accounting rules for financial instruments, but it spans public policy and regulation in a way that is also of interest to scholars of law and regulation. (Full disclosure: I am an editor of Regulation & Governance, though I was not involved in this article’s editorial process.)

Mügge and Stellinga discuss the choice between the two main accounting standards (fair value accounting, or FVA, and historical cost accounting, or HCA), across three policy-making moments between 1997 and 2013, in terms of two dominant explanatory theories for policy change—neither of which turns out to be convincing. What emerges is a sense of how accounting regulators, specifically the EU’s Accounting and Regulatory Committee (ARC), put in place unstable sets of accounting standards for financial instruments that were neither exactly what banks wanted, nor what the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) as standard-setter wanted. Nor is this simply a case of a regulator ‘splitting the baby’ between competing interest groups. Continue reading "Drama and Consequence in Accounting Standards Choice (Seriously)"

 
 

The Battle Between Law and War

Deborah N. Pearlstein, Law at the End of War, 99 Minn. L. Rev. — (forthcoming 2014), available at SSRN.

The United States has formally fought a “war on terror” since 9/11, but a key question is whether it will ever end. In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), for example, the U.S. Supreme Court essentially pronounced that enemy combatants in Guantanamo could be held for the “duration of hostilities.” It is not clear, however, when that will occur, especially since the war is principally against a non-state group, Al Qaeda, bent on terrorizing the U.S. for as long as the group survives. As Professor Deborah Pearlstein shows in her important new article, Law at the End of War, U.S. Supreme Court decisions contain language that has been interpreted to mean that when a war ends is a political question. Marshaling U.S. Supreme Court precedents, international law, the related law of armed conflict, and public policy interests, Pearlstein argues persuasively to the contrary.

One of Pearlstein’s central arguments is that the judiciary has long been willing to decide when a war has ceased. These determinations have major legal consequences, since war triggers the applicability of important statutes and conventions. For example, she counters conventional views regarding The Prize Cases, 67 U.S. 635 (1863), where the question was whether President Lincoln had the “right” to impose a naval blockade on southern ports after the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in 1861. While the Court said it “must be governed by the decisions and acts of the political department of the Government” on the question of “what degree of force the crisis demands,” she convincingly asserts that this simply means Lincoln had the power to decide to shoot back. The Court did not exclude itself from deciding whether war existed in light of the President’s actions. Indeed, the Court rejected executive branch arguments that it must abstain from such assessments, as a matter of international law, unless Congress formally declared war. Continue reading "The Battle Between Law and War"

 
 

Unifying the Not-So-Unitary Executive

Jason Marisam, The President’s Agency Selection Powers, 65 Admin. L. Rev. 821 (2013), available at SSRN.

Jason Marisam’s recent article on what he calls presidential “agency selection powers,” The President’s Agency Selection Powers, 65 Admin. L. Rev. 821 (2013), provides new insight into a president’s capacity to shape regulatory policy even without relying on a so-called “unitary executive” reading of the Constitution.

Should a history of arcane legal debates ever be written, perhaps authors will mark the so-called “unitary executive” debate as one of the strangest. Technically, the controversy centers on whether the President is constitutionally entitled to dictate how all other executive branch officials exercise whatever discretionary functions are vested in them by statute. I have argued that the Constitution embodies no such principle.1 On the other hand, scholars as otherwise unalike as Steve Calabresi and Cass Sunstein have urged—on originalist and nonoriginalist grounds, respectively—to the contrary.

This sounds like a big deal, and it is—in principle. But the main significance of the doctrine is primarily its potential impact on the ethos of executive power. If the small-“u” unitarians are right, then executive officers are likely to attend as diligently to the president’s policy preferences as they do the laws enacted by Congress. In contrast, my negative response to the question is intended as an institutionally potent reminder that much of what the executive is allowed to do is entirely at Congress’s sufferance. Administrative power under this view ought to be exercised in a conscientious, well-reasoned way, as attentive to law as to politics. Any Administration’s view of the “unitary executive” theory is likely to be an important mood-setting device for governance, pointing in one direction or the other. Continue reading "Unifying the Not-So-Unitary Executive"

 
 

On Managerial Justice and the Anti-Discrimination Project

Nancy Gertner, The Judicial Repeal of the Johnson/Kennedy Administration’s ‘Signature’ Achievement (forthcoming, 2014), available at SSRN.

The extensive research showing that employment discrimination plaintiffs fare significantly worse than plaintiffs in other kinds of cases in federal court at every possible stage of litigation is well known at this point. Scholars like Ted Eisenberg, Kevin Clermont, and Stewart Schwab have thoroughly documented the disparity. Building from this work, other scholars have focused on why employment discrimination cases are different. Some have chalked the change up to changes in employer behavior, labeling current forms of discrimination “subtle” rather than “overt.” Others have mapped doctrinal drift between the goals of the statutes when they were initially enacted and their current applications. Still others have linked the drift and plaintiffs’ disproportional losses to the liberal use of summary judgment and the change in rules to pleading standards under Twombly and Iqbal. Most scholars are able only to theorize on the causes as they document these changes, but Nancy Gertner, a Professor of Practice at Harvard and former United States District Court Judge, has offered important new insights on why it is that employment discrimination cases fare worse than other kinds of cases.

Judge Gertner’s most recent article on the subject is The Judicial Repeal of the Johnson/Kennedy Administration’s Signature Achievement. In it, she identifies five potential causes of this phenomenon: 1) judges may believe that discrimination doesn’t exist anymore; 2) more discrimination cases are frivolous; 3) good cases are taken to state courts because state law is less employer friendly; 4) the Supreme Court has narrowed the law in a way that protects employers; and 5) the pressures on judges create and perpetuate biases against these cases. Based on her own experiences and others’ studies of judicial decisions, Gertner concludes that ideology, particularly as communicated by the Supreme Court in its decisions, plays some role, but that the greatest cause of the disparity is the pressure on judges to manage their caseloads and the ways that the effects of those pressures magnify the ideological factors. Continue reading "On Managerial Justice and the Anti-Discrimination Project"

 
 

Navigating the Complexities of Assisted Reproductive Technology

Kristine S. Knaplund, Assisted Reproductive Technology: The Legal Issues, Prob. & Prop. Mag., Mar./Apr. 2014, at 48.

Kris Knaplund is one of the leading American scholars in the area of postmortem conception and its theoretical and doctrinal implications for the field of inheritance law. In her article, Assisted Reproductive Technology: The Legal Issues, Knaplund lays out the complex planning issues that arise in a variety of scenarios involving Alternative or Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). This clear and succinct article is a must read for professors, practitioners and students alike. Knaplund educates readers about the increasing number of situations and clients that involve ART, ranging from a trust beneficiary who is planning to use a gestational surrogate to a hospital faced with the widow of a recently deceased man who wants to harvest his sperm to have future children.

Knaplund begins by defining assisted reproductive technology as “the handling of gametes (sperm or ova) outside the human body in order to achieve a pregnancy.” She notes that the three most common forms of ART are assisted insemination, in vitro fertilization, and gestational carriers. She then proceeds to illustrate the kind of legal issues that attach to each of the three forms. For example, in assisted insemination (more commonly known as artificial insemination) the sperm donor is typically not the legal father if the sperm has been given to a licensed physician. But if a donor dispenses with the physician and donates directly to the intended mother, the statutory safe harbor no longer applies. Knaplund outlines several state cases including Jhordan C. v. Mary K., 224 Cal. Rptr. 530 (Ct. App. 1986) where that scenario results in the sperm donor being declared the resulting child’s legal father. Continue reading "Navigating the Complexities of Assisted Reproductive Technology"

 
 

Do No Harm: Misdiagnosing Informed Consent

Erin L. Sheley, Rethinking Injury: The Case of Informed Consent, BYU L. Rev (forthcoming), available at SSRN.

For quite some time, the large majority of informed consent cases have been handled under a negligence rubric, the central issue being whether the physician’s disclosure of risks to the patient was reasonable, as measured either by the reasonable patient standard, or in some jurisdictions, the standard of the profession. The battery cause of action has now been relegated to a minor role. It only surfaces in cases in which the physician does not simply fail to give adequate information about the costs and benefits of an agreed-upon procedure, but has completely failed to secure the patient’s consent, for example, by operating on another body part or performing a tubal ligation following a C-section. The battery claim is so marginalized that the A.L.I., in the Restatement (Third) of Intentional Torts to Persons, is currently debating whether to limit the scope of battery/informed consent claims even further, perhaps requiring the patient to prove that her doctor knowingly exceeded her consent before allowing recovery for battery.

Going against the grain, Erin Sheley’s new article argues that the negligence framing of informed consent claims loses sight of the dignitary aspects of the claim that the battery cause of action captured so well. This overreliance on the negligence framing of consent claims creates “a class of factually injured patients who have no remedy under current law.” Sheley starts with an example of a breast cancer patient who was under the impression that she was to receive a biopsy on a lump in her breast. However, when the physician determined that her tumor was malignant, he decided to go ahead and perform a mastectomy in an effort to stop the cancer from spreading. Putting aside whether such a patient might possibly recover for battery under the current restrictions, Sheley argues that the patient in such a case has suffered a real injury, even if it turns out the physician made the right call from a medical point of view. The problem with proceeding under the negligence theory is that the plaintiff’s claim will likely fail because she cannot prove that she suffered a physical injury, a necessary element of a negligence claim predicated on lack of informed consent. Continue reading "Do No Harm: Misdiagnosing Informed Consent"