Law Lets State Universities Sue Over Patents, But Not Be Sued Back

from the nyah-nyah-nyah dept

Isn't it wonderful how the government likes to impose all kinds of ridiculous patent laws on everyone, but gets to often ignore them itself? A few years back, we talked about how the government used "state secrets" claims to avoid paying royalties on patents, and now the Wall Street Journal highlights how state organizations can get out of patent infringement lawsuits by claiming "sovereign immunity," a leftover bit of legacy regulation that really is no longer even remotely appropriate. The specific situation covered in the article is that state universities can avoid any kind of patent infringement lawsuits directed at them, even as they use the patent system to sue lots of others. The article highlights the University of California, which has been one of the more aggressive universities when it comes to patents and suing others for infringement. Some had been arguing that since UC was suing others for patent infringement, sovereign immunity should no longer apply. Unfortunately, the appeals court disagreed. Even UC's own lawyer admits that it's a dumb law: "Sovereign immunity came from the king not wanting to be sued by his subjects and it ended up in our jurisprudence. It's not fair but it's the current state of the law." Indeed. So the courts may have ruled correctly based on the law, but isn't it about time that the law got changed?


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  1.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 9:47am

    T-R-O-L-L-S

    Trolls everywhere !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Not some furry little creatures but 800-pound gorillas like Univ of California...
    What are you gonna do about them, Mikey ?

    They don't make shit, they collect money by suing "productive" companies like MShit and Google...

    Evil evil patent trolls.............

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Matthew, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 9:56am

    Anything these days

    If there is a modern situation where one can invoke a 200 year old law that was designed to protect the King then something is drastically wrong. If UC is dishing it out, then they don't need to firing volleys from their ivory tower.

     

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  3.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Nov 14th, 2007 @ 10:31am

    Patents that Should be in the Public Domain

    A lot of research at universities and other types of facilities are done using grant monies provided courtesy of the Federal or even State government. All "inventions" that receive patents deriving from research using public grants should be in the public domain. Technically, this would mean that universities, in many cases, would not be able to actually assert patent "ownership".

    My "big picture" concern is that there may be a large body of patents that should be in the public domain based on the use of public funded research but are not. Unfortunately, this seems to be an overlooked topic.

     

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  4.  
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    TheDock22, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 10:32am

    Unfair

    This does sound very unfair. I think the law should read if they claim sovereign immunity then they can't be involved in patent lawsuits, else they can't claim immunity. I wonder which most universities would choose...

     

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  5.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 14th, 2007 @ 11:30am

    Re #4

    I would hope immunity, and then they turn the patents into public domain. I do not really know where the money comes from for these large universities to fund research projects and patent applications. I would assume the taxpayers, but do not want to make a sweeping generalization. If the assumption is right though, I agree with Steve R, they should be public domain.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Shun, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 12:57pm

    Public Domain -- the other way

    This may be how Thomas Jefferson arrived at his truism that there should be a revolution every 30 years to turn over the old system. Maybe he was talking about patent trolls.

    I used to work in Biotech, and I wondered what all the lawyers were doing, so I asked them. Most of the time, they were making deals to get licensing from one corporation or a university, so that we could use their technology in our products. That guy at the University of California Office of Technology Transfer probably made a mint doing hardly anything. All because they had a patent stack. Big Whup.

    All Universities should have a public domain clause in their charters. "After a reasonable time, not exceeding 10 years, including time necessary for the active development of a tangible, material product...shall pass into the public domain in perpetuity." Also include a clause that explains that no board may change the clause, and attempting to do so will result in beheading, gelding, or beatings by local football (soccer) hooligans.

    Oh, and Software == Unpatentable

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Public Domain -- the other way

    Hey, little retarded dude

    Why don't you become a professional organ donor ?

    What other use can you have on this planet ?

    Fertilizing ground ?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Shun, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    Re: angry dude

    Troll,

    Do you have an argument? Or are you just assuming that I would make better fertilizer than you? I admit, I can get a little "pie-in-the-sky" with my ideas, sometimes, but I thought that TechDirt was about imagining possibilities and proposing solutions. Soylent Green would not be the first solution, but it might become the eventual one, if everyone were to listen to your advice.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 4:20pm

    Since when?

    Since when have universities been immune from lawsuits? I seem to remember hearing of several over the years. Is this something that only applies to patent lawsuits?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Overcast, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 5:16pm

    But of course, the state can do no wrong...

    So much for the idea of Universities being a cornerstone of knowledge for 'the public'. Guess they are just like corporations now.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    angry dude, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 8:30pm

    Re:

    Idiot,

    Nothing is free in this world

    Corporations are focused on immediate profit
    Universities are engaged in basic research
    Most of this research is never patented but is published in jornals so you, young idiot, can go to the nearest library and read about it, it just use google.scholar to locate whatever you need (and still pay for downloading most interesting articles, alas , nothing is free even for idiots like you)

     

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  12.  
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    Wizard Prang, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    To have Sovereign Immunity...

    ...don't you need a Sovereign?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    dorpass, Nov 15th, 2007 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Re: angry dude replace dorpus

    That's hilarious!

    "Most of this research is never patented" Oh, really? So why are there so many patents from UCs, Stanford, etc? And why is Silicon Valley full of companies built on patents developed in universities? Oh wait, you are angry, you are allowed to ignore facts. Go dude!

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Riley, Jul 26th, 2008 @ 12:56pm

    The 30-Year Energy Revolution Squelched by George W. Bush

    We had the OPEC oil embargo in the early 1970's that nailed us all to the wall. When it was over we began a slide into the economic morass we have today. However, in 1989 I figured out how to erect fields of lightning-attracting towers like modern Maginot Lines, gleaning capacitive power from storms that regularly cross from out Texas way that travel eastwardly across all Gulf states with astonishing repetitiveness.

    (Storms that generate capacitive charges that release as lightning to the ground can be reverse-engineered into banks of capacitors then released one at a time into the powerlines as a single AC current.)

    That was another type of Jefferson's revolutions that, had it been acted upon we would have had 50% of this country's electricity from that natural source. But had it happened the South would have risen again too, so that would have been bad {Grin}. But the real revolution came in 2003 when I came across an air-powered car engine system that was built and in fact ran a mail truck in 1997.

    The reasons it failed to replace gasoline & diesel was the inventor, an aeronautics and aerospace genius engineer by the name of Dr. Abraham Hertzberg who had been integral in Space Shuttle development, well, he had gotten quite along in years and made a few mistakes that cost him the Finish Line he so desperately wanted to cross.

    I was rather ill in 2003 ~Hertzberg died in April I think~ from a serious issue called gout, which is razor sharp acid crystals circulating in the blood damaging even tiny capillaries, so I was taking an internal beating from a knife fight. So slowed down myself it took me 3 days to figure out what mistakes Hertzberg had made. I fixed the air-powered car engine system to be a dynamo, a powerhouse, by adding steam.

    Why it did not replace combustion engines yet? Well, President George Wallmighty Bush had a lot of friends -some of them paid invention assassins- to argue me down just as he had done to many inventors NOT JUST ME. Heck no. I was not the only one! The first "Industrial Revolution" began when Newcomen added cold water spray into a steam engine to make the piston return much faster & more power. I added steam to Dr. Hertzberg's engine to make the supercold liquid air EXPLODE into the pistons instead of just lollygag expanding. It was similar to the trick Mr. Newcomen pulled on the steam engines!

    Thirty-plus years after the OPEC oil embargo sent us all down this economic cattle chute from hell the Energy Revolution of the Second Industrial Revolution happened 300 years after the first one in 1705. But for this {ahem} President paying people to work against me and proxy-slime me on the Internet as being a fraud you would have free transportation by now instead of being fleeced at the gas pumps. Steam & Liquid Air is a temperature spread of 640 degrees there friends, combined inside a closed engine cylinder enough to surpass the explosive power of gasoline and diesel on their best days.

    Not completely free; you still have to buy the systems.

    That was the second time I got hit with invention lightning. On February 15 2005 another one came to me ~somewhat based on ideas from the previous engine~ early one morning while getting ready to drive to my bank. But since my other ideas had been successfully delayed and otherwise quashed on el presidente's tank windshield I lacked any accumulation of credibility and couldn't get a loan, so since then it too has been delayed. It generates circular power like a waterwheel to run homes generated at the home or apartment. It makes the Main Power Grid largely obsolete (except for large users in industry) and makes it possible to live anywhere, to live on mountaintops of Earth or under the oceans, on the mountaintops of the moon or Mars' Martian valleys where I understand they recently found water.

    I am of the opinion -because I know how many other good inventors out there have been likewise stopped and discredited- that we are living in an Artificial Timeline. We should have entered into a great future long ago but for this "Truth Embargo" of withheld inventions. It was not just me and other inventors who got stopped, not even just Industrial Age 2 that got stopped; Bush stopped Thomas Jefferson.

    For me this has been quite an awakening that such Evil exists that would muster international support to slow and control the release of new energy inventions and systems. I can understand stopping me because of my strong statements about religious beliefs from the Bible, that the military Gov't doesn't much want a dedicated Christian opening up Outer Space with his anti-Gravity and life support systems. But keeping families with young children hungry reaches a level of Evil that just shouldn't exist. Not to mention losing their homes. Point is that what we are watching now did not just "happen"; it was brought about by just such a tyrant Thomas Jefferson tried to prevent.

    My best links and pictures are found on www.askinventor.com. You can still read the page even if you do not believe the Bible...

     

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