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Practitioners Gather for Patent Conference

By John Masson
Sept. 26, 2012

The Federal Circuit Bar Association gathered experts this week at Michigan Law to discuss patent litigation.

The Bench and Bar Charitable and Education Fund presented "The State of Patent Litigation: A Conversation with the Federal Circuit" all day Tuesday in Honigman Auditorium in Hutchins Hall.

Chief Judge Randall Rader, of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, served as a panelist, in addition to delivering a keynote speech urging patent practitioners to protect their profession by doing what they can to hold down the cost of litigation.

Rader recalled a time, early in his career, when he was extolling the virtues of the American court system to a group of Russian judges. One judge thanked him for his explanation, then asked for the American system's greatest weakness.

The answer came instantly to Rader, as it would to most American lawyers: cost. Since then, he added, the problem has only gotten worse.

Three factors in particular feed those costs, he said. First on the list is discovery as it's now practiced. Other factors fueling litigation inflation include attorneys failing to narrow the issues to a manageable degree, as well as not finding a way to make the size of the proceedings match the stakes.

"I don't think we're serving our clients … when we fail to keep our disputes in a more efficient" form, Rader said. "We have a responsibility. We're in this together."

Teresa Stanek Rea, the deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property, was also on hand to serve on a panel and to address provisions of the new America Invents Act, most of which took effect this month. She was also available to address a new satellite patent office—the first in history—that opened this summer in Detroit.

The event featured an international panel of judges and practitioners, with separate panels tackling the view from the bench, innovation and efficiency in Michigan, as well as issues affecting in-house and outside counsel. Instrumental in bringing the event to Michigan was 2002 alumna Emily Zelenock Tait of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn.

Participants included 1949 Michigan Law alumnus Judge Avern Cohn of the Eastern District of Michigan, Judge Jack Wang of the Intellectual Property Court of Taiwan, 2001 graduate and Michigan Law professor Bryce Pilz, as well as representatives from Ford Motor Company, Stryker Corporation, and various high-profile law firms.

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