Gabriel Fuentes has been appointed as the Northern District of Illinois’ newest magistrate judge. Before going to Northwestern Law, Fuentes was a journalist for the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. After law school, he served as an assistant U.S. Attorney before becoming a partner at Jenner & Block, where he handles antitrust criminal defense

This Friday, March 5, 2010, the Northwestern Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property hosts its Fifth Annual Symposium. The Symposium, titled “New Rules for a New Day,” includes the following sessions:
• The Patenting of Social Interactions: Bilski Before the Supreme Court – a panel discussion on the Bilski case, what is at stake, and the Supreme Court’s options featuring Professor Matthew Sag of the DePaul University College of Law; Professor Joshua Sarnoff of the Washington College of Law at American University; Professor Jonathan Masur of the University of Chicago Law School; and Daniel Williams, a Partner at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP;
• Sharon Barner, Deputy Under Secretary and Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will provide the luncheon keynote on “Strategies for the USPTO: Ensuring America’s Innovation Future”;
• Trademark and Copyright in the Days of Internet: The Google Influence – a panel discussion on the ramifications of the Google Books and Google AdWords cases and the protection of IP in the fluid landscape of the internet featuring Michael Baniak, a Partner at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP and Professor Matthew Sag of the DePaul University College of Law;
• Who Defines the Law? USPTO Rule Making Authority – a panel discussion on recent court challenges to the USPTO’s rulemaking and interpreting power, including the Cooper Technologies, Tafas, and Wyeth cases featuring Professor James Speta of the Northwestern University School of Law; Patent Docs author Donald Zuhn, a Partner at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP; Nicholas Zovko of Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP; and Professor Jonathan Masur of the University of Chicago Law School; and
• Redefining “Free”: A Look at Open Source Software Management — a panel discussion on the pitfalls and issues that arise when open source code is included in a deal featuring John Hines, a Partner at Reed Smith LLP; Jon Christiansen of EscrowTech International Inc.; Alfred Hanna, a Partner at Reed Smith LLP; and Joseph Herndon, a Partner at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP.
More information is available at the Symposium’s website. Registration for the Symposium is free. CLE credit will be available to attendees for a fee of $200.

Continue Reading CLE: Northwestern Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property Annual Symposium

The annual Chicago IP Colloquium returns this Tuesday, January 26, 2010. The Chicago IP Colloquium is jointly sponsored by Chicago-Kent College of Law and Loyola University Chicago School of Law to discuss a range of issues in intellectual property and cyberspace law based upon papers by six nationally renowned intellectual property scholars. The sessions are uniformly excellent, and well worth your time. The first session of 2010 will be Tuesday, January 26 from 4:10 pm to 5:50 pm in Room 305 at Chicago-Kent and will feature Professor Peter C. DiCola, Northwestern University School of Law, discussing his paper: Sequential Musical Creation and Sample Licensing.

Continue Reading Chicago IP Colloquium: Sequential Musical Creation & Sample Licensing

Tomorrow, January 12, at noon, I will be participating in a panel discussion of the Bilski case as we await the Supreme Court’s decision that could significantly change patentability of business method and potentially software patents. Here is Northwestern’s description of the panel:
Currently pending in the Supreme Court, the Bilski case stands to redefine the boundaries of what is patentable and has captured the attention of major software and technology giants like Microsoft and Google. Practicing IP attorneys will discuss the potential ramifications of this case on patent law and the issues presented by patenting abstract business practices and innovations.
Joining me on the panel will be:
* Andrea Augustine from Foley & Lardner; and
* Thomas Donovan from Barnes & Thornburg.
The panel is open to the public, so please join us January 12 at noon in Northwestern Law’s Room RB140.

Continue Reading Defining ‘Patenable’: A Discussion of Bilski and Business Method Patents

Northwestern’s Law School is hosting an Advocacy and Ethics Film Series. There are three sessions, each built around a classic legal movie, offering 1.5 ethics credits (everyone needs ethics credits) per session. Once you sign up, they mail you a DVD of the movie, watch it before the session and then discuss it with a distinguished Northwestern professor, over popcorn. Each session costs $175 ($500 for all three) with early registration, or $225 ($600 for all three) after the deadline. This looks like a great CLE series, but I have to question the decision not to include my favorite legal movie, Anatomy of a Murder. Maybe they are saving it for the 2009 series. Here is the information for each session:
To Kill a Mockingbird, presented by Steve Lubet – October 3, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Registration and popcorn: 5:00 p.m.
12 Angry Men, presented by Bob Burns – October 22, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Registration and popcorn: 5:00 p.m.
Judgment at Nuremberg, presented by David Scheffer – November 13, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Registration and popcorn: 5:00 p.m.
Notre Dame’s Law School is offering CLE programs on home football Saturdays this year. Each session includes a continental breakfast, two hours of CLE programming before the game and the opportunity to buy tickets for the day’s game (tickets must be picked up at the CLE session). The only session still open is Syracuse on November 22, could be a bit chilly. But Domers should keep their eyes open for next year. Great excuse to get to a game.
On September 23, Loyola University is hosting Attorney General Lisa Madigan speaking as part of the Albert Schweitzer Fellows for Life Lecture Series. The title of Madigan’s presentation is, Leadership by Example: Idealists Creating Change. No CLE credit for this one, but it looks very interesting. It is free, but RSVPs are recommended to either or 312.372.4292 ext. 24.
* Hat tip to Fastcase for pointing me to the the Advocacy and Ethics Film Series.

Continue Reading Watch Movies, Get CLE

James Sweeney, a prominent member of Chicago’s IP bar, passed away last week — click here for the Sun Time’s obituary. Sweeney graduated from Northwestern Law in 1956, after serving in the U.S. Navy aboard a submarine from 1950-1953. He practiced law most recently with Barnes & Thornburg. In 2000, at the request of the State Department, he traveled through Malaysia with his wife speaking about IP counterfeiting and piracy. Sweeney also organized and directed John Marshall’s Center for Intellectual Property Law:
The John Marshall Law School hired Mr. Sweeney in 1998 to run its Center for Intellectual Property Law because of his extensive background and his many contacts, said John E. Corkery, dean of the school. Mr. Sweeney retired in 2003.
“Jim was a big, gregarious fellow and he knew many, many people in the legal profession and particularly in intellectual property,” Corkery said. “It was hard to walk down the street with Jim Sweeney and not have him say hello to someone he knew.
* * *
“He organized and directed the program and hired the practicing lawyers who would come to the law school and teach for us.”

Continue Reading James R. Sweeney — 1928-2008

As I mentioned several days ago, Northwestern’s excellent IP Law Week series begins Monday, January 14. The student IP group is hosting a panel each day next week. The Monday through Thursday panels will run from noon until 1:15. Friday’s panel starts at 1:40 and ends at 2:35. All events will be held in Rubloff 140. The panels are listed below and promise to be very interesting. I am part of Monday’s Patent Reform panel, and I look forward to seeing you there.
Monday: Patent Reform – Motivations, Impact and Controversy
Tuesday: Balancing the Right to Life vs. the Right to Patent
Wednesday: Copyright Law and Media Distribution over the Internet
Thursday: Patent and Pharmaceutical / Drug Issues
Friday: KSR v. Teleflex and Patent Prosecution

Continue Reading Nortwestern’s IP Law Week Starts Monday

The Chicago Tribune reported last week — click here for the story — that Northwestern University received $700M from Royalty Pharma in exchange for certain of Northwestern’s royalty rights to its patents covering pregabalin. Pregabalin is a key component of Pfizer’s Lyrica, which is used to treat nerve pain associated with diabetes, shingles and fibromyalgia. Northwestern plans to use some of the money to fund its new nanotechnology initiative.
I will be on a panel at Northwestern’s IP Law Week next month. Perhaps in light of Northwestern’s new found wealth I should have requested a speaker’s fee. Seriously though, this will be a great event and is worth your time if you are in town. They have not published their literature on the event yet, but as soon as they do I will post it.

Continue Reading Northwestern Gets $700M for Royalty Rights

There is a debate brewing in the patent litigation community over the correct scope of a state institution’s waiver of 11th Amendment immunity when that institution asserts its patents. In Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd. v. College Savings Bank, 527 U.S. 627 (1999), the Supreme Court held that state institutions were immune from patent infringement suits. Of course, if a state institution asserts a patent claim against a party, immunity is generally waived as to that party for counterclaims. But the Federal Circuit recently held in BPMC v. California Dept. of Health (Fed. Cir. 2007), that when the California Department of Health (“Cal. DoH”) intervened as a plaintiff in a patent suit (which is considered a waiver of immunity), it is only a waiver as to that suit. So, when the original suit was dismissed because of improper venue, the waiver was rescinded. As a result, the defendant in the first case, BPMC, could not bring a declaratory judgment suit that mirrored the original suit because of the Cal. DoH’s 11th Amendment immunity.
The Federal Circuit’s decision has ignited substantial controversy (click here for the WSJ Law Blog’s article on the subject and click here for IP Biz’s responsive blog post) and some are predicting that this will be the next patent case that the Supreme Court takes on cert. It is an interesting issue, but not one that we see often in the Northern District, which caused me to investigate whether Chicago-area colleges are prolific patentees. None makes the top ten, like my alma mater the University of Michigan – Go Blue! But there is some substantial patenting going on at Chicago-area universities. The following chart show the number of patents assigned to the identified universities or their related entities between 1969 and 2005:
Chicago-Area University Utility Patents 1969-2005 School Patents
U of Chicago 309
IIT 59
Loyola, Chicago 33
Northwestern 370
U of Illinois 552
As you can see from the chart, this issue has significant consequences for Chicago-area schools. I will keep you posted as the case develops.

Continue Reading State Immunity’s Impact on Northern District Patent Suits

Northwestern University statistics professor Bruce Spencer concluded in a recent paper that juries provide accurate results 80% of the time. The paper, “Estimating the Accuracy of Jury Verdicts” was recently released online prior to a planned publication in this month’s issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (if you do not want to wade through Spencer’s statistical analysis and discussions, Northwestern created a very detailed press release that is a good start). Spencer considers two studies of 271 criminal juries in which the presiding judge filled out a survey explaining what the judge believed the correct verdict to be prior to hearing the jury’s verdict. Approximately the juries agreed with the presiding judges approximately 80% of the time. Spencer is careful to point out that a jury that disagrees with a presiding judge is not necessarily wrong. But he explains that jury-judge agreement is a reliable indicator of jury accuracy. Spencer also argues that his study is based upon a relatively limited data set, and that his study should not be a basis for broad conclusions so much as additional research.
As you might imagine, Spencer’s study has generated lots of blogosphere commentary. Anne Reed of the Deliberations blog (an excellent blog and my source for this post — thanks Anne) has an interesting prospective. She argues that the study highlights the tension between the jury’s job – applying the facts to the law and determining whether the party with the burden has met that burden – and what the jury thought its job would be – seeking truth and justice:
In short, the relevance of Prof. Spencer’s work to trial lawyers may be not in what it says about juries, but in what it says about jurors. From high-school dropouts to university professors, they come to court with a clear, and often mistaken, idea of what their task is. If your case depends on correcting that idea, you may need to work harder than you imagined.
I think Reed makes an interesting point. But I took something a little more positive away from Spencer’s work. I was very impressed that juries and judges agreed 80% of the time. As a child, my dad (a criminal defense attorney) routinely asked my family and me to predict the outcomes of his trials. We were usually correct. My dad was not. At some point during law school, I stopped being able to predict his case outcomes. The law changes how you think. Perhaps lawyers become too clouded with burdens of proof and rules of evidence to appreciate how a jury sees a trial. As a federal district court law clerk, I had a similar experience. I saw a number of trials and as we waited for the jury, we would often try to predict the results in chambers. The only people who reliably predicted the results were those without law degrees. So, the 80% accuracy rate suggests to me that juries are doing a good job of putting aside their Law & Order notions of the courtroom and making the parties meet their burdens.

Continue Reading Juries Get it Right — 80% of the Time