The place of suit matters a lot in civil cases. Suing at home helps the plaintiff — by keeping her costs low, giving her comfort that local judges and juries will give her fair treatment, and throwing out-of-town defendants off balance. All of that bigly boosts the plaintiff’s chances of success.

But a trio of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings promise to make plaintiffs’ home fields more like patches of weeds than acres of sweet verdance.
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How many trial lawyers sit on the U.S. Supreme Court?
How many trial lawyers sit on the U.S. Supreme Court?

In the last quarter-century and more, no current member of the Supreme Court tried a lawsuit of any kind to a judge or jury. Almost none of the justices has ever tried a civil case to verdict. And before their honors became appellate judges, only one of their number served as a full-time trial judge.

Does the justices’ nearly total lack of trial-lawyer chops matter? Has the almost utter absence of actual trial experience in fact degraded the quality of civil justice? And will confirming the nomination of a former trial lawyer like Neil Gorsuch make a difference?

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Patent pirates?
New rules for patent pirates.

Extraordinary protection

Since 2007, wanton patent infringers have enjoyed extraordinary legal protection from awards of “enhanced” damages under section 284 of the Patent Act.

Last week, the Supreme Court stripped away three of the protections. The changes will make good patent cases better. But it won’t convert weak ones into strong ones.
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imageRisky business

Patent infringement cases involve an immense amount of risk. Why?

Answers by people who know — especially plaintiffs-side attorneys who work on a contingent-fee basis — will cluster around three facts of life in patent disputes:

  1. high stakes,
  2. huge costs, and
  3. the propensity of the Federal Circuit to undo trial court rulings.

This post deals with the hazards awaiting you behind door number three.
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PortfolioFinding your patents

Since 1990, 4,008,329 utility patents have won U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approval. In 2014 alone, the USPTO granted more than 300,000 of them. And those awards went to a wide range of patenting entities — 38,000 of them, in fact.

If you do legal work for companies of any size, those clients of yours likely own at least one patent and may have quite a few (several hundred entities received 40 or more patent grants just in 2014). Do you have any idea how many or what inventions they cover?

Don’t worry if you don’t. You can get a list and see a copy of the patents in no time flat.
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FundingBig dollars in business cases

Expenses in big-dollar lawsuits can run into the millions of dollars. An antitrust class action that I’ve handled since 2003, for instance, cost more than $8 million. The law firms representing the class fronted all that money, with no assurance we would ever get any of it back. Why would any sane person do such a thing?
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