by Mike Masnick
Wed, Nov 14th 2007 9:14am
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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