Every appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court elicits a whirlwind of scrutiny. While the current nomination of the 2nd Circuit’s Judge Sonia Sotomayor has proved to be just another high school debate competition on civil rights issues for political activists and politicians, it has also proved to be unique in the fact that it brings, for the first time in a long time, considerable experience in intellectual property law to the highest court in the U.S. The 2nd Circuit is no stranger to intellectual property cases, as it has played host to numerous copyright and trademark cases, many of which have played a large role in shaping those two bodies of U.S. law.
A Wall Street Journal article today points out that, while Sotomayor challenged counterfeitors as a commercial lawyer in her private practice, she has been on both sides of IP infringement suits as a judge:
As a district judge, she sided in separate 1997 cases with the holders of the “Three Stooges” licenses, and the producers of the “Seinfeld” TV show, who were challenging what they considered abuse of their property.
On the other side, Judge Sotomayor ruled as an appeals-court judge against Mattel Inc. in its attempt to block what the company considered cybersquatting by Web domain names such as “Barbie-club.com” and “captainbarbie.com.” Her 2002 ruling in the case limited the legal weapons that companies could use in enforcing the recently passed “Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.”
Judge Sotomayor would be the first Supreme Court Justice with experience in cyberlaw, or internet law, and the clash between technological innovation and the laws that protect creators’ rights. This is a large step forward for the Supreme Court, which has increasingly shaped U .S. intellectual property law in the last two decades without significant expertise in the area. Although it may be hard to pinpoint on which side of the intellectual property spectrum Judge Sotomayor falls, whether that be protecting owners’ rights or the innovative process, the fact that experience with intellectual property laws may now be on the high court’s resume can only bode well for the success of the U.S. intellectual property law system.
See more on Sotomayor’s experience with intellectual property in the WSJ HERE.