Volume 49, Issue 3
BPLA Judges Dinner Summary
By Carissa Ryan, Nutter
On May 31, 2018, the Boston Patent Law Association hosted its Annual Dinner to Honor the Federal Judiciary at the Moakley Courthouse. We could not have ordered up a better day, as we enjoyed a warm (but not too hot) sunny day on the lawn at the Courthouse before heading inside for a lovely evening. Over 250 guests attended, including 21 judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The inclusion of the judges from the PTAB were a welcome addition, as six judges who live locally were able to attend and indicated how appreciative they were of the invitation.
The dinner was held in honor of the 21 judges in attendance, along with their colleagues who were unable to attend, to demonstrate the BPLA’s appreciation for the hard work these jurists put in to provide a fair justice system that treats intellectual property matters with respect and importance. During the dinner, the implementation of the new Local Rule 16.6 for Patent Proceedings was also highlighted, as it was the eve of the rule coming into effect. President Rory P. Pheiffer highlighted the collaborative efforts of members of the Federal judiciary—including Judges Stearns, O’Toole, and Bowler, among others—and of BPLA members—including Erik Belt, Barbara Fiacco, Susan Glovsky, Monica Grewal, Michael McGurk, Andrew O’Connor, Lisa Tittemore, and the recently appointed Judge Dalilia Wendlandt, among others—in formulating the new rule.
While the dinner honors the entire Federal judiciary, including the administrative judges at the USPTO, one highlight of the evening was the presentation of the 12th annual BPLA Distinguished Public Service Award to U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor, IV. President Pheiffer presented this year’s Award to Judge Saylor in recognition of his many years of public service, first in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, and since 2004 as a Federal Judge. President Pheiffer noted that Judge Saylor’s upcoming succession of Chief Judge Patti Saris as the Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts is a clear reflection of the respect and admiration he has earned from his colleagues over his 14 years on the bench. It was noted that his colleagues, and those that have tried cases in front of him, were all quick to compliment his judicial temperament, as well as the careful and thoughtful consideration he gives each matter. President Pheiffer further noted that, at least statistically, Judge Saylor appears to appreciate the value and importance of intellectual property—having found claims to be valid nearly 85 percent of the time, and having never found a patent to be unenforceable.
In accepting the award, Judge Saylor provided a history lesson involving Henry Ford’s fight against George Selden—sometimes dubbed as one of the original “patent trolls.” George Selden, a patent attorney, was issued U.S. Patent No. 549,160 for a “road-engine,” from which he and a financer were able to collect royalties from a number of companies involved in the infancy of the automotive industry. Henry Ford, however, thought the patent was worthless and decided to fight the patent infringement suit brought against Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford lost at the district court level but was vindicated at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit when the court agreed that the engines used in Ford’s automobiles were based on the Otto engine, not the Brayton engine which was the focus of the Selden patent. Judge Saylor’s takeaway from this case? Keep it simple, as Henry Ford lost at the district court when his attorneys presented an evidence-heavy, highly technical case against succinct, easy to digest briefs from Selden, while on appeal Henry Ford’s new patent attorney focused on a few key issues to discredit Selden’s case.1
The night concluded with a keynote speech from Dr. Latanya Sweeney, a professor of Government and Technology in residence at Harvard University. Her keynote focused on the unforeseen consequences of technology, which can leave our democratic values up for grabs. Dr. Sweeney began by highlighting the many ways in which technology affects our lives and how seemingly arbitrary decisions in creating technology can force us to live by new rules. Further, rapid proliferation and replication of successful technologies can enact these changes seemingly overnight. After showing how plentiful vulnerabilities and unforeseen consequences can be in this environment, Dr. Sweeney spent the latter part of her keynote illustrating how everyone—from lawyers to technologists to students—can identify democratic vulnerabilities or unforeseen consequences and affect change for the better. Whether by pressuring individual companies to fix their platforms, or encouraging regulators to enact broader reform, careful thought and resulting action can safeguard long-held values and make our society a better place.
The BPLA thanks all of its members, and the members of the judiciary, who attended. The BPLA also thanks the sponsors for the event: Nutter; Goodwin Procter; Choate, Hall & Stewart; Hamilton, Brook, Smith & Reynolds; Lando & Anastasi; K&L Gates; McCarter & English; Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; Pepper Hamilton; Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks; Greenberg Traurig; Hoffman Alvary; Latham & Watkins; Proskauer Rose. The night would not be possible without the support of the members, the judiciary, or the sponsors.