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AG’S OFFICE GETS WRITTEN UP BY HARVARD LAW PROF Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe is ripping the California attorney general’s office in an unusual letter that he wants circulated to every member of the U.S. Supreme Court. The letter was attached to Nike Corp.’s reply brief in Nike v. Kasky, 02-575, which asks whether corporations are subject to the same free speech rights as everyone else. Tribe, counsel for Nike, is furious at the state for alleging that his client did not follow federal law by serving a copy of their brief on the state, required since a California law is in question. “The allegation is so obviously and profoundly wrong as to be deeply irresponsible,” Tribe wrote. The letter was addressed to Supreme Court Clerk William Suter and requests that Suter circulate the letter to the justices. In an amicus brief, the state alleged that Nike did not tell them it was challenging California law, but in its own brief Nike said — on page 2 — that it did notify California. The state says it never received that notification. But to Tribe, that is almost beside the point — if California had bothered to read the brief to which it was responding, it would know Nike was aware of, and believed it had complied with, the notification requirement. “The attorney general could only have accused petitioners of not including the required certification . . . by failing to read the petition,” Tribe pointed out. Attorneys for Nike say they contacted the state to point out the error, and the state initially agreed to correct the allegation. But the AG’s office later decided against it. “We are going to be sending a letter in response,” said Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer. “The bottom line is, this office — the lawyers that have been working this case — still have not received from Nike’s lawyers the petition for cert.” The state got a copy from Marc Kasky, who sued Nike under the state’s false advertising laws over the company’s public rebuttals to allegations that it uses overseas sweatshops. Dresslar said it’s unfortunate that the “side issue” is drawing attention away from Nike’s attempt to invalidate California law, when it never raised the issue at the California Supreme Court. “The only part of Mr. Tribe’s over-the top-letter we agree with is that it’s unfortunate that the court’s time is occupied with this issue,” he said. — Jason Hoppin SIGN IN, PLEASE A name scrawled on a conference sign-in sheet eight years ago helped turn the tide in a major patent battle. Superconductor Technologies Inc., which makes filters and amplifiers that improve cell phone reception, was sued for patent infringement by ISCO International Inc. But in a recent trial held in Delaware federal court, STI lawyers presented the attendance sheet to prove the patent was based on prior art. One of the original patent holders — Robert Yandrofski — had attended a 1995 conference on the technology several months before filing the patent application. [The company Yandrofski worked for later sold the patent to ISCO.] According to STI’s lawyers, Yandrofski claimed he didn’t recall hearing a report on data relevant to his patent. But STI lawyers found the man who sat next to Yandrofski during a key session. The witness “stood up, walked into the gallery and positively identified Yandrofski,” said STI attorney Michael Plimack, a partner at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. “It’s probably as dramatic a moment as you get in a patent case.” Santa Barbara-based STI manufactures cryogenically cooled filters and amplifiers for cellular base stations. The patent in dispute covered the use of the filters and amplifiers in conjunction with an automatic switch bypass. “It was a true bet-the-company case,” Plimack said. “The plaintiff was seeking $15 million in damages — subject to trebling if infringement was found to be willful — and the potential of a permanent injunction against core technology.” Instead, on April 3, after deliberating for 90 minutes, the jury found the patent was invalid. The jury also ordered ISCO International — which purchased the patent from the original owner — to pay STI $3.8 million for unfair competition. ISCO had threatened to sue an STI customer that had ordered 1,000 filter and amplifier units, priced at $20,000 per unit. As a result, Plimack said, the purchase was delayed and STI was unable to close a private financing for several months. In the interim STI’s stock price fell. Plimack said the damages award was equivalent to the amount of money STI could have raised at the higher stock price. Heller partner Alexander Brainerd and Lawrence Goodwin of New York’s Chadbourne & Parke were co-counsel on the case with Plimack. John Sweeney, a partner at New York’s Morgan & Finnegan who represented the plaintiff, couldn’t be reached for comment. ISCO said in a press release that it was “shocked by the jury’s decision” and would be discussing with counsel its options for overturning the verdict. — Brenda Sandburg QUIETLY UNITED San Francisco court reporters were so low-key about a vote to affiliate with a union that the superior court’s administration didn’t find out about it until weeks later. Members of the San Francisco Official Court Reporters Association voted earlier this year to affiliate with Local 21 of the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, said Maura Baldocchi, vice president of the SFOCRA. The professional association will transfer its bargaining function for 70 to 75 full-time and pro tem court reporters to the union, Baldocchi said. “This was sort of news to us,” Cheryl Martin, the human resources director for the court, said Wednesday. She caught wind of it the previous Friday, she said, when a court reporter asked the payroll department about deducting union dues from paychecks. The shift in negotiators is a response to “changing situations” in the bargaining process, Baldocchi said, with factors such as court consolidation and state involvement playing a role. “We’re court reporters,” not negotiators, Baldocchi said of the SFOCRA. “It’s a consumption of time and resources that we don’t have.” Court reporters have not had any problems with the court’s administration or judges, she emphasized. Before Local 21 can negotiate on the court reporters’ behalf, the SFOCRA needs to formally notify the court of the change, Martin said. The SFOCRA doesn’t seem in a big hurry. There are no immediate plans for a trip to the bargaining table, Baldocchi said. “This is very brand new. We’re not even paying union dues.” The vast majority of the court’s employees “are represented by somebody,” Martin said. Local 21 represents 66 of 76 of the court’s professional staff, Local 790 of the Service Employees International Union represents 328 of 332 clerical/technical staff, the Municipal Executives Association represents 49 of 62 managers, Martin said. — Pam Smith

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