Live Webcast Of Mass. High Court Hearing on Patent Subject Matter Conflicts

Michael E. McCabe, Jr.Conflicts of Interest, Patent Ethics0 Comments

John Adams Courthouse MassachusettsThe September 8, 2015, oral argument before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Maling v. Finnegan Henderson will be broadcast live by webcast. For those interested in watching the oral argument, which is scheduled to be held sometime between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM, click on the link at Mass. Supreme Judicial Court.

As previously reported in our January 2, 2015, posting, the issue before the court is whether an actionable conflict of interest exists when different attorneys in the same law firm simultaneously represent two different clients in prosecuting patents on “similar” inventions.  See Chrisopher Maling v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP, SJC-11800.

The case has captured the attention of the intellectual property bar.  In amicus briefs submitted on behalf of Finnegan Henderson, the amici argued that the Massachusetts’ high court’s decision could potentially cause significant harm to small entities and sole inventors who may be deprived of the specialized technical expertise of lawyers based on the subject matter of the invention.  Clients who operate in the same field of technology routinely use the services of the same law firm to prosecute their patent applications because the firm has developed expertise in the relevant field of technology.  
As the amici noted, once a lawyer of law firm becomes an expert in a particular field of technology, they should be able to provide their clients in their field of expertise with better services since those attorneys presumably will have developed a significant understanding of the state of the art.  Developing such specialized technical expertise can thus provide substantial economic benefits to clients. 

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