Saturday, 19 April 2008

For whose benefit?

JK Rowling is trying to stop publication of a guide (or "Lexicon") to accompany the Harry Potter books, in the US courts. The case started last week (story from the FT here) and is commented on, adversely, in today's FT here. It doesn't sound as if the author herself wants to do this: she is a party to the proceedings, but so is her publisher Waner Bros.

Christopher Caldwell's piece in today's FT takes the defendant's side, but legal analysis indicates that it's not as clear-cut as he seems to think: see eg Info/Law which questions the apparently general view that this is a species of fair dealing, and the Patry Copyright Blog which doesn't take sides but which regrets that this sort of suit should be brought at all. Prof Landes has, however, taken sides and provided the court with declarations in support of the plaintiffs.

I leave commentary on the fair use doctrine in US copyright law to the US lawyers, but I'm struck by this comment by the judge, who said "I’m concerned that this case is more lawyer-driven than it is client-driven..." That echoes another story in the papers recently, and on the IPKat, about how the recent RIM patent infringement case in the high court here involved costs of £5.2 million (on RIM's side - Visto, the defendant, spent about £1 million). For a five-day trial the claimant's lawyers had racked up 9 years of billable time, including two lawyers recording 2,250 hours each. (See the story in today's FT here and here.) Not a problem specifically for intellectual property lawyers, but certainly IP litigation is at the expensive end of the scale. But maybe I'm just wishing I had some cases like that ...

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