Here’s what you need to know at the end of the day.
By Robert Barnes,
A unanimous Supreme Court on Monday made it more difficult for companies to sue for patent infringement in courts that they consider friendly to their cause.
The justices affirmed a decades-old ruling that said such lawsuits should be filed in the judicial district where the alleged offender is incorporated. It reversed a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that gave plaintiffs greater leeway and resulted in a huge number of cases being filed in a receptive federal court in east Texas.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said that subsequent actions by Congress and other courts had not altered the Supreme Court’s 1957 decision that a lawsuit alleging patent infringement must be filed where the defendant “resides,” and a corporation resides only in its state of incorporation.
Under the Federal Circuit ruling, patent lawsuits can be filed wherever a company has even minimal sales of its products.
That has resulted in nearly half of the lawsuits being filed in the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall, where cases move quickly and the court is seen as sympathetic to plaintiffs.
One U.S. district judge, Rodney Gilstrap, received about one-quarter of all the patent cases initiated between 2014 to 2016 — more than were assigned to all federal judges in California, New York and Florida combined, according to Mark A. Lemley, a Stanford University law professor who filed the brief at the Supreme Court on behalf of himself and other professors.
The Supreme Court’s decision will represent a “seismic shift” and “deals a severe blow to non-practicing entities or ‘patent trolls,’ and shifts home court advantage to companies accused of patent infringement,” said Paul Cronin, an intellectual property specialist in Boston.
In the case before the court, an Indiana-based company, TC Heartland, was sued by Kraft Heinz. Kraft alleged that Heartland’s liquid water enhancers infringed on Kraft’s MiO liquid water enhancer. Kraft sued in Delaware, the judicial district with the second-highest number of patent lawsuits. Heartland was turned down by the courts when it attempted to get the case shifted to Indiana.
Because so many companies are incorporated in Delaware, analysts expect the number of lawsuits filed there to increase. But high-tech companies were among those that supported Heartland, and the number of cases filed in California is expected to rise as well.
The case is TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods Group Brands.
In what might be one of the Internet’s greatest accomplishments to date, the Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o movie of their wildest dreams may actually become a reality.
According to Entertainment Weekly, a source reports that Grammy winner Rihanna and Oscar winner Nyong’o will star in a Netflix film project directed by Ava DuVernay that will stream on Netflix; Issa Rae is currently in talks to write the screenplay.
The news follows a series of viral tweets from nearly a month ago that created the concept of a film starring the fabulous duo based on a photo of them sitting front row at a fashion show. The Internet also imagined DuVernay as the director and Issa Rae as the project’s screenwriter; following the popularity of the the meme, all four women expressed interest in making the movie happen.
In an earlier interview with TIME at the TIME 100 gala where DuVernay was recognized as a member of the list, DuVernay discussed the possibility saying, “I really think it shows the power of people wanting to see stories that are women-centered, women of color-centered that are made by women of color,” noting that “anything is possible.”
By Matea Gold,
White House officials are seeking to stop the federal government’s top ethics officer from getting details about waivers granted to lobbyists and other appointees working in the administration, intensifying a power struggle between President Trump and the ethics agency.
Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent a memo in April to the White House and federal agencies asking for information about such waivers.
But in a May 17 letter, Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, questioned whether the Office of Government Ethics has legal jurisdiction to get information about waivers that have been granted. He said the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel may needed to be consulted.
“I therefore request that you stay the data call until these questions are resolved,” Mulvaney wrote Shaub in a letter first reported by the New York Times.
Shaub did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But former OGE officials said the agency has clear authority to seek such documentation under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. Without such reports, they said, it is impossible to know how many appointees have been granted exemptions from ethics rules — and how much leeway they have under the waivers.
“This is unprecedented interference with OGE,” said Don Fox, a former general counsel and acting director of the ethics office.
“The Ethics and Government Act was part of a whole package of post-Watergate legislation that had a common theme of transparency,” he added. “If there is nothing to hide, why hide it?”
OMB officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The tussle centers on OGE’s effort to determine whether the administration is complying with federal ethics regulations, including an executive order Trump signed in January that, among other measures, prohibits former lobbyists who join the government from participating in any matter they lobbied on for two years.
Trump has not disclosed how many waivers have been granted to appointees who are in violation of his order, even as his administration has tapped numerous lobbyists for posts.
In contrast, the Obama administration regularly released copies of waivers that explained why it was in the public interest to hire appointees whose past lobbying work or employers put them in conflict with ethics rules.
Trump’s ethics order also stripped out an Obama-era clause requiring OGE to provide an annual public report detailing who has received ethics waivers.
Shaub now appears to be seeking to compile a public record by reviewing waivers granted in the past year. In his April memo to White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the heads of federal agencies, he said information about ethics waivers was necessary to further OGE’s “mission with respect to the executive branch program.”
He is being urged on by Democratic lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee, including the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland.
“If the Trump Administration’s compliance or lack of compliance with ethics requirements is shrouded in secrecy, the American people cannot hold to account the Administration officials who participate in matters in which they have conflicts of interest,” Cummings and 17 other Democrats on the committee wrote in a letter.
Mulvaney’s pushback is the latest episode in which administration officials have questioned the reach of OGE.
Earlier this year, Stefan Passantino, the White House’s designated ethics official, argued in a letter to Shaub that many ethics rules do not apply to presidential staffers.
In response, Shaub called Passantino’s assertion “extraordinary “ and “incorrect.”
“It is critical to the public’s faith in the integrity of government that White House employees be held to the same standard of ethical accountability as other executive branch employees,” he wrote.