Trials & Litigation

Federal judge bans potentially inflammatory words, such as 'yahoos' and 'fake news'

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Lawyers in a case in the Eastern District of Texas can’t refer to jurors, the court or the jury pool as “yahoos” or by other similar, derogatory references, according to a motion granted by a federal judge last month.

Nor can the lawyers refer to the plaintiff as a “patent factory” or its case as “fake news,” according to the Dec. 20 order by Chief U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap of the Eastern District of Texas. The lawyers may, however, refer to the case as “frivolous” in closing arguments to attack their opponents’ arguments, Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap issued his order in a patent infringement case between makers of garage door openers, Bloomberg Law reports. The dispute between the Chamberlain Group and two defendants was set for a retrial when Gilstrap ruled.

A lawyer for the Overhead Door Corp., one of the defendants, had told jurors in the first trial that the Chamberlain Group “filed this suit in Marshall, Texas, because they think we are yahoos in East Texas; they think we won’t use our common sense,” according to Bloomberg Law. The defense had also compared the Chamberlain Group to a “patent factory.”

Jurors ruled for the Chamberlain Group on Jan. 27 in the retrial and awarded $46.1 million in damages. The other defendant in the case is GMI Holdings.

The banned words aren’t the only ones that Gilstrap has nixed, according to Bloomberg Law. In the past, he has banned references to plaintiffs as “patent trolls” or as a “pirate,” a “bounty hunter,” a “privateer” or a “bandit.” He has also banned references to infringement allegations as a “stickup,” a “holdup,” a “shakedown” or a “lawsuit lottery.”

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