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Supreme Court hears arguments on patents, Hobbs Act

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Tuesday in cases dealing with damages for patent infringement and the Hobbs Act robbery statute. The consolidated cases of Stryker Corp. v. Zimmer and Halo Electronics, Inc. v. Pulse Electronics, Inc. [SCOTUSblog materials] involve the application of a rigid two-part test to assess damages in a patent infringement case under 35 USC § 284 [text]. In both cases, the appealing party asserted that Octane Fitness, LLC v. ICON Health & Fitness, Inc. [opinion, PDF] should rule, in which the court rejected a similar rigid two-part test for assessment of attorney's fees under 35 USC § 285 [text]. Petitioners argued [transcript, PDF] that the Federal Circuit has developed such a rigid test for enhanced damages in patent infringement that even the worst of infringers generally are immune from damages. They claimed that this has occurred because the court is concerned no longer with intent, but proof of recklessness. Respondents argued that a rigid test is necessary in view of whether an alleged infringer knew about the patent or whether the patent was valid or pertained to the infringing work. The Supreme Court granted certiorari [order list, PDF] back in October.

In Taylor v. United States [SCOTUSblog materials], the court is determining whether the Hobbs Act [DOJ backgrounder] requires the government to prove that the robbery of a drug dealer actually affects interstate commerce. Counsel for petitioner/defendant Taylor argued [transcript, PDF] that the Hobbs Act has two elements: "[t]he first requires that the accused obtain property from another by either extortion or robbery. The second is the jurisdictional element, in that the consequence of either the extortion or the robbery creates an interference with commerce." Petitioner argued that the government was not required to prove the effect-on-commerce element which ultimately led to an improper conviction of Taylor. Counsel for the US countered that the federal government has jurisdiction under the Commerce Clause and can therefore prove the necessary element as it deals with both the inter and intrastate trade in marijuana.

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