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This Week's SCOTUS Grants (Part I): Raging Bull and Patent Trolls

By William Peacock, Esq. on October 02, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Tired of waiting for the return of the Court?

The first official business of the 2013 term is here, with the Supreme Court issuing an orders list granting certiorari in eight cases. Recall that their summer backlog consisted of about 2,000 petitions, so we'd expect to hear more next week.

As for this week's business, from overrated boxing movies to fee-shifting issues in IP cases, here are the first four (of eight total) grants:

Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management Systems, Inc. (SCOTUS Docket and Lower Court Opinion)

The district court, after six years of fighting, found this case to be a meritless waste of time. As such, it used its power to award attorney's fees. The Federal Circuit reversed, and employed a deference-free review standard. Every other circuit and the Supreme Court all employ a more deferential standard, though admittedly, they deal with other areas of law. The Federal Circuit, on the other hand, has to deal with patent and copyright trolls.

Octane Fitness, LLC v. Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. (SCOTUS Docket and Lower Court Opinion)

Speaking of patent trolls and fee-shifting, while the Federal Circuit shows no deference to lower courts' fee-shifting determinations, they themselves employ a "rigid and exclusive two-part test." Does this test improperly appropriate judicial discretion and contradict statutory intent and Supreme Court precedent, and as a result, encourage patent trolling?

Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust, et al. v. United States (SCOTUS Docket and Lower Court Opinion)

In 1875, the Congress passed the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act, which gave railroads the right to lay thousands of miles of track across the nation. When those tracks are abandoned, however, what happens to the underlying land? The Federal and Seventh Circuits, relying upon a 1942 Supreme Court case, held that the land was an easement, and does not revert to the Feds. The Tenth Circuit thought differently, and held that there was an implied reversionary interest.

Paula Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., et al. (SCOTUS Docket and Lower Court Opinion)

We know what you're thinking: wasn't "Raging Bull" released a long time ago? Yep. Eighteen years after the 1980 film was released, the heir of a screenwriter who penned a similar script sued MGM, claiming infringement. We covered the Ninth Circuit's dismissal of the case due to the long delay in taking action, even though the claim was brought within the three-year statute of limitations. SCOTUS will decide whether the defense of laches is available in these types of continuing copyright infringement cases.

That's the first half of the court's order list. We'll be back with the other four cases later this week.

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