UVA Law to Host Patent Claim Hearing Involving Tech Giants

Lemons Remarks on Being Sworn as Chief Justice

Some of the most elite tech companies in the world will defend themselves in a patent litigation hearing at the Law School on Tuesday.

January 16, 2015

Some of the most elite tech companies in the world will defend themselves in a patent litigation hearing to be held at the University of Virginia School of Law on Jan. 20 from 1-5 p.m. in Caplin Auditorium.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis of the Eastern District of Virginia will preside at the claim construction hearing, in which companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest are among 17 defendants in a lawsuit involving alleged patent infringement of digital image organizational structures.

"This hearing offers a window into what modern patent litigation looks like," UVA Law professor John Duffy said. Duffy and Professor Margo Bagley are teaching a short course focused on the case. The multidistrict patent litigation, brought by TLI Communications, is complex and typical of today's patent battles, Duffy explained.

The plaintiff in the case argues that the patented method of administering digital images was among the winners of an idea competition run by the Siemens Corp., and that it was so novel that the patent examiner could not find any prior art teaching some of the central features of the system. By contrast, the defendants argue that "anyone who had ever kept a photo album or scrapbook the old-fashioned way, with photo film developed onto paper, has followed th[e] very same process" that this patent applies in a computerized form.

Bagley said she has taken students to observe appellate oral arguments at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit several times in the past. Hosting a hearing instead at the Law School was an experiential teaching opportunity she and Duffy "could not pass up."

Students in the course, Patent Claim Construction and Other Current Issues in Patent Law, will read the related briefs and write response papers on both, while also learning about historical and modern approaches to the interpretation of such claims. After the decision is released, students will have the chance to meet with Ellis to discuss the case.

"The course, combined with the oral hearing and [the meeting with Ellis], provides a unique context for students to explore some of the most important issues that consistently arise in patent cases, such as the meaning of claim terms and whether the invention comprises subject matter eligible for patent protection," Bagley said.

"The goal of the class is to teach students how courts decide the scope and validity of patents in high-stakes modern patent litigation," Duffy said. "The class involves interesting theoretical issues about how the legal system can define property rights with clarity even though the subject matter of rights lies on the forefront of human knowledge and is inherently incorporeal."

The hearing also offers an opportunity for all UVA Law students to see a highly regarded judge in action, Duffy said. Ellis has served on the Eastern District of Virginia since 1987, and sometimes hears cases from the Western District of Virginia or for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

Ellis' current clerks include two UVA Law graduates, Sarah Buckley '14 (former editor in chief of the Virginia Law Review), and Archith Ramkumar '13, who won the William Minor Lile Moot Court Competition with Lyle Kossis '13 in 2013.

Audience members are not required to attend the entire hearing, and may enter and leave the room quietly. Video- and audio-taping are not permitted.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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