Saturday, August 31, 2013

Patently ridiculous

As Palo Alto and Mountain View are to software engineers, so is Marshall to patent lawyers - a place where you can be sure of plenty of business.
Two of the town's most prominent attorneys, Michael Smith and Sam Baxter, acted as my guides to the place and its premier industry. Mr Smith acts mainly for defendants, Mr Baxter principally for the plaintiffs, but each has built a pretty lucrative business on patent litigation.
As we stood on the main square, looking across at the old courthouse, Mr Smith explained that it all started with a local company, the semiconductor maker Texas Instruments.
"They were looking for a place where they could get patent claims heard. And the federal courts in Dallas were buried under a lot of drug trials."
So they came to Marshall for a speedier hearing. "They filed the cases here for about 10 years and they were very happy with it. And then everyone else followed suit."
No pun intended? Anyway, everything is supposed to be big in Texas, and litigation is no different;
 It can cost anything from $6m to $12m for a trial, says Mr Baxter. "If you got that many lawyers in a courtroom and the meter's running on every one of them, it is probably not unusual for the clock to be running at $2m a day in a courtroom."
Which pleases the locals;
Just about everyone I met had some involvement with the patent business, mainly as jury members. They were all quite proud of their town and seemed bemused that anyone might think the patent system was not working well for the US. And of course there is an economic benefit.
"It's good for hotels, it's good for restaurants, it's good for lawyers," one man told me.

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