Editor's Note
California Lawyer

The Supreme Court and Business

July 2014

Chuleenan Svetvilas

In March 2008, a New York Times Magazine article by Jeffrey Rosen "solidified the bona fides" of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says writer T. R. Goldman, author of "Inside the Chamber". When the Times story was published, John Roberts had been chief justice of the Supreme Court for two-and-a-half years, and Rosen pointed out that the previous SCOTUS term had been "exceptionally good for American business." According to Rosen, the Chamber's litigation center "had filed briefs in 15 cases and ... won in 13."

The National Chamber Litigation Center, the trade organization's inside law firm, still maintains a very impressive win-loss record in cases granted cert. Clearly, a great deal of thought and planning goes into the Chamber's legal strategy. That was one topic, however, that the NCLC's top lawyer, Lily Fu Claffee, would not discuss.

"They wouldn't talk about the nuts and bolts of their case selection committee process," says journalist Goldman. He likens the organization to "a boutique law firm with the resources of one of the country's biggest trade associations behind them."

Our cover story by Edward Humes also focuses on litigation, but in this case on matters brought by patent assertion entities (also referred to as "patent trolls"), companies whose primary business is to enforce patents via demand letters and lawsuits ("Trolling for Dollars"). As he researched the story, Humes observed that "the 'troll' is in the eye of the beholder. Just because you're asserting a patent and aren't a company that creates products doesn't necessarily make you a troll," he says. "And if you do make products, that doesn't mean you can't be a troll."

Humes, who has written books on the environment, science, education, and the justice system, says patent enforcement has very direct consequences for our economy. "It's a hugely important story that touches on a lot of areas beyond the current focus on software patents," he says. "Universities' and research institutions' intellectual property is at stake."

Attempts at patent reform have stalled in Congress, but at the Supreme Court this past term at least one decision on attorneys fees in a patent case (the Octane Fitness ruling) had an immediate impact for a California defendant, FindTheBest.com.

And finally, for MCLE credit, read "Victim Restitution" to learn about how California gives crime victims the right to seek restitution from wrongdoers

I look forward to hearing from you about this issue. Just drop me a line at CL_Editor@dailyjournal.com
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