Patent Law

What the Dixie Chicks and Robin Thicke know about fixing the patent system

If you want to reform the patent system, you should look to some ideas expressed in popular song, according to a federal appeals court judge.

The system would work better if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit didn’t have exclusive jurisdiction in patent cases, according to Judge Diane Wood of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. She thinks litigants should be able to choose between the Federal Circuit and the other federal appeal courts, according to the Washington Post blog the Switch. Her critique, she said, “relies in large part on three of the leading legal thinkers of our times,” including the Dixie Chicks and Robin Thicke.

Wood’s ideas, expressed in an address last month, were just published by the Chicago-Kent Journal of Intellectual Property. How Appealing links to a video. The transcript is here.

Wood said the song “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks is about a person who needs room to make big mistakes, according to the account by the Switch. The courts also need to learn from their big mistakes, Wood said, and competing viewpoints among the circuits would provide needed testing of ideas.

Wood also pointed to Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines,” first acknowledging that she has “no use for the misogynism in the lyrics and, in particular, the ugly and insensitive allusions to rape.” But she said the concept of Blurred Lines applies, because the lines between patent and other intellectual property disputes are blurring, the Switch says. Many suits involve combinations of patent law and other disputes, undercutting the argument that patent law is too complicated for nonspecialized courts, she said.

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