Big Patent Holders & Big Patent Law Firms Bring Judges To Belgium For Boondoggle...

from the conflict-of-interest? dept

Capitalist Lion Tamer points us to the troubling news that an organization of patent holders has organized a conference and is flying in a bunch of judges who deal with patent issues from around the globe to hang out with them at a conference for a few days. As Kevin Outterson notes, this seems like a major conflict of interest:
Does anyone see a conflict of interest when the world’s richest patent owners fly judges from all over the world to a 3-day conference in Brussels?  Here's the lede:
Bringing nearly 100 judges from more than 30 countries to Europe.  Sharing experiences among patent-experienced judges from many countries and between the patent bench and bar.
This gathering won't hear from patent skeptics.  The Platinum sponsors are Akin Gump, Du Pont, ExxonMobil, Finnegan, P&G and Johnson & Johnson.  The program committee is unabashedly pro-IP.  No voice for the public domain; MSF, Oxfam, Jamie Love, Sean Flynn and other public interest voices aren't on the program

I'm fine with IP maximalists holding conferences; I'm worried when judges from around the planet are wined and dined while hearing only a pro-IP point of view.
I agree that this is quite troubling. The conference is being organized in part by perhaps the most powerful US patent judge, the chief judge of CAFC, Randall Rader. Rader's a very interesting guy, a fantastic speaker and extremely entertaining -- but he has a huge blind spot when it comes to understanding how patents are regularly used to stifle innovation. Perhaps that explains why the conference that he supposedly helped put together appears to feature none of the many top voices who are worried about where the patent system is today.

Perhaps even more troubling, as Outterson points out, is that this conference -- again, supposedly with Rader's support -- is being sold to patent lawyers (who have to pay $1475 plus travel and lodging to attend) as a way to get access to the very judges who will be handling their cases:
Conference attendees will have an opportunity to share experiences with nearly one hundred judges from around the world. Beginning with a welcome reception on Monday, judges will attend sessions and social events with intellectual property law attorneys and other interested parties.
As Outterson notes, this "sounds like buying social access to IP judges to me." It seems shameful that Rader would allow his name and reputation to be used for such things. It's equally shameful that USPTO boss David Kappos is appearing at the event. Again, it's fine to have events discussing IP issues, and even fine for patent system supporters to put together their own conferences. But it's troubling when the event is presented as a way to access judges, and all of the sponsors and organizers seem to have a particular view on the state of patent law today, which is seriously contrasted by actual evidence and research in the market.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Why not a conference of our own with an anti-IP bent to it? Oh wait, we would be accused of "conflict of interest", possibly arrested on some bullshit charge of "influencing judges" and made to look like criminals.

     

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  2.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Why not a conference of our own with an anti-IP bent to it? Oh wait, we would be accused of "conflict of interest", possibly arrested on some bullshit charge of "influencing judges" and made to look like criminals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    Ooops, double post, Mike can you delete this please? Thanks in advance

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    Uh...can you point out where it says that the judges are "flying a bunch of judges" to this conference?

    BTW, I did not read anything in the linked conference announcement that limited attendance to only a specific group. Maybe this is the case, but the announcement does not say this.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 12:23pm

    Re:

    OOps. Did not mean to say judges were flying judges to the conference.

    BTW, judges, more than anyone else, are particularly aware of conflict of interest matters. When they attend conferences such matters are thoroughly vetted beforehand.

     

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  6.  
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    Someantimalwareguy, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    One question here:

    Would the judges getting free attendance to this event be liable for influence peddling charges for accepting free gifts of travel and lodging unless they pay the same fee the IP lawyers have to pay to attend?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Re:

    I have participated in vetting procedures many times. They are only as good as the most powerful person's morales.

     

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  8.  
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    Casey Bouch (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:06pm

    Future cases

    What is the possibility that this conference could allow us to pull undesirable judges from various patent cases. In the same way we pull jury members based on potential bias, it should be logical to assume we could do the same for judges. At a minimum it will give weight to potential appeal cases if we can prove a conflict of interest and bias.

    Does anyone have a list of attending judges? I would love to see this list made available.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    They should've had an infomercial.

    Judges for sale! All you can eat, only $1475! Limited time offer, buy now!

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    You have to get in there and speak!
    You might have to come up with some sort of pro-patent guise to get your foot in the door.

     

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  11.  
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    6, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    "Ronald Rader."

    The man's name is Randall Rader.

    http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/judges/randall-r-rader-chief-judge.html

     

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  12.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:49pm

    Re:

    The man's name is Randall Rader.


    Dah! Stupid mistake on my part. Was typing fast and had a brain fart. Fixed.

     

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  13.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

    Re:

    BTW, I did not read anything in the linked conference announcement that limited attendance to only a specific group. Maybe this is the case, but the announcement does not say this.

    Who on the committee who puts this together or among the speakers has expressed any skepticism concerning the patent system?

     

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  14.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    Turnabout is fair play

    Patent skeptics/critics should feel more than welcome to hold their own conference and invite who they want.

    HM

     

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  15.  
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    The eejit (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Turnabout is fair play

    And yet, the wailing from those aforementioned companies would be Extreme.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 3:13pm

    Re: Turnabout is fair play

    Patent skeptics/critics should feel more than welcome to hold their own conference and invite who they want.


    Um. That's not the point, is it?

     

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  17.  
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    abc gum, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 5:04pm

    Seems these judges, after attending, would have to recuse themselves from any and all cases involving patents, copyright and trademark - no?

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 5:56pm

    Re:

    Re US judges...no.

     

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  19.  
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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 25th, 2011 @ 7:34pm

    Re: Turnabout is fair play

    Mike Masnick wrote:

    Um. That's not the point, is it?


    Maybe it is. Maybe IP maximalists will always have a greater share of the money on their side, simply because their philosophy favours fewer, larger organizations over more, smaller ones.

     

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  20.  
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    velox (profile), Apr 25th, 2011 @ 11:19pm

    -- this sorta makes one pleasantly look back at the good old days when conflict of interest consisted of flying doctors to "educational programs" held at casino resorts in the Bahamas in order to help them "learn" when to prescribe the purple pills, as opposed to the pink and black ones.

     

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  21.  
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    bikey, Apr 26th, 2011 @ 7:28am

    Rader

    I'm sorry, RR is neither a fantastic speaker nor amusing - he is the georgebush of the judiciary. I remember being at a conference on Asian IP in Seattle years ago where this fratboy announced proudly that before got this job (how, I don't know), he knew nothing about patents. The audience was not amused, but he was. Anyone who has a 'blind spot' on how innovation is harmed by patents, and who as a judge, let alone as an organizing judge, would participate in a conference like this is neither smart nor blind, he is an assault on all who believe that law should serve everyone and not just other rich fratboys and their corporations.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    Now if only we can buy supreme court judges. How much do they cost?

     

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  23.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 26th, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Re: Rader

    I'm sorry, RR is neither a fantastic speaker nor amusing - he is the georgebush of the judiciary. I remember being at a conference on Asian IP in Seattle years ago where this fratboy announced proudly that before got this job (how, I don't know), he knew nothing about patents. The audience was not amused, but he was.

    I've heard him say the same thing, but I still think he's a great speaker and very entertaining. You can be entertaining and still be wrong.

    Anyone who has a 'blind spot' on how innovation is harmed by patents, and who as a judge, let alone as an organizing judge, would participate in a conference like this is neither smart nor blind, he is an assault on all who believe that law should serve everyone and not just other rich fratboys and their corporations

    On that we agree.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Rader

    Perhaps it would be of assistance to review his bio on the website for the CAFC. Over the past 20 years on the federal bench he has acquired an intimate knowledge of patent law that is remarkable in scope.

    It has been repeated here that the CAFC is dominated by "patent attorneys", and that this creates an institutional bias in favor of patents in general. Of course, this is incorrect...but it keeps being repeated anyway.

    Now we have an example of a jurist who is well familiar with all aspects of such law, but who did not begin his career as a "patent lawyer", nor is he admitted to practice, were he still in private practice, before the Bar of the USPTO.

    "Patent lawyers dominate the court". "Non-patent lawyers create a gaping hole in the judicial competence of the court."

    Would it not be more accurate to simply say "We do not like patents at all, and the appellate circuit for patent law is marred by the fact that some of its jurists have practiced such law and are thusly biased, and others have not practiced such law and are thusly lacking in experience."

    If we were to adopt this standard across the board for appellate courts, no jurists would ever be able to measure up.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 26th, 2011 @ 4:09pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rader

    "It has been repeated here that the CAFC is dominated by "patent attorneys", and that this creates an institutional bias in favor of patents in general. Of course, this is incorrect...but it keeps being repeated anyway."

    How does denying patent critics access to these events, but allowing patent advocates access, not create a pro-patent bias?

    "Patent lawyers dominate the court". "Non-patent lawyers create a gaping hole in the judicial competence of the court."

    That's not what anyone is claiming. We're saying that more diversity, allowing more patent critics to attend these events, promotes more balanced viewpoints.

     

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  26.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Apr 30th, 2011 @ 11:21pm

    Re: Re: Turnabout is fair play

    Isn't the answer to speech you don't like more speech to try to convince others of the wisdom of your preferred position?

    HM

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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