An Interview with Judge Richard Linn


judge-richard-linn0-02-08-2013-aOn Friday, February 8, 2013, I interviewed Judge Richard Linn of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. During my discussion with Judge Linn we talked about his decision to take senior status, his ongoing work with the patent and intellectual property focused Inns of Court, the tremendous change U.S. patent law is experiencing, zealous advocacy, civility in patent litigation, and the Supreme Court being quite interested in patent cases. The entire interview is published on at Exclusive Interview: Judge Richard Linn of the CAFC.

What appears below are some of the highlights of the interview.

Judge Linn on how he became interested in patent law:

I originally set out to be an engineer and then later on decided to shift gears and pursue a career in patent law. The seed for that shift was planted when I was in high school. I had an uncle who was a patent draftsman. In those days, the drawings were done by draftsmen. It was quite a process. All done by hand, nothing computer aided. One summer my uncle invited me to work in his office and learn how to do patent drawings. I thought, wow, what a cool thing this is, playing with all these inventions, how neat that was.

I enjoyed it immensely and I had the opportunity to interact with some of the attorneys that would come in. At the end of the summer, I remember telling my uncle that I wanted to be a patent draftsman when I grow up. And he said, “No, no, you don’t want to be a patent draftsman, you want to go to law school and become a patent attorney.”

Judge Linn on civility in patent litigation:

I think it would be naïve for me to even suggest that attorneys conduct themselves with civility as a regular matter in these cases. I think that unfortunately there is still a great deal of incivility that’s going on and this whole Rambo style of lawyering that was the genesis for the idea of forming the American Inns of Court is still out there and may very well be the rule rather than the exception. I’m not happy about that. I think that lawyers should conduct themselves privately the same way they would conduct themselves if they were having a discussion in front of a judge and that’s what their obligation is. It’s like when you were a kid, in thinking about what you do and how you act, you would ask yourself, “What would my parents say if they were sitting in the room?” Well, it should be the same for a lawyer dealing with an adverse party in litigation. What would the judge say if he was sitting in the room or reading the e-mails and letters being sent back and forth between counsel. As a practical matter, I think we still have a lot of work to do to turn things around because that’s not what happens in a lot of cases. I do think the American Inns of Court is playing a role in trying to overcome some of this bad behavior because when you get to know somebody and you break bread with them, you conduct yourself a little differently. Will we ever get to the point where everybody is always civil and professional? That may be difficult to expect, but it’s worth trying.

Judge Linn on patent law changes and the Supreme Court interest in patent matters:

It’s actually troubling to me that there’s so much change going on right now because I’ve been around the block enough to know that the business community we serve and the economy of the country which is so dependent upon innovation and intellectual property demands some degree of certainty.  Business people need to know what the lay of the land is when they are making big decisions, high-risk decisions and making investments that have serious effects.  And with all of the uncertainty, I think it’s causing serious problems.  What does this mean?  Well, I hope that over time things settle down.  Like a lot of things, I think there’s a cycle to what happens, and this increased activity is just part of a cycle that hopefully will calm down.  I do think the Supreme Court’s interest in IP will continue, however,  because the Justices realize that this area of the law is critically important to the nation’s economy.

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