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The theme of voices echoes throughout this year’s first Legal Times’ IP. Knowing when to speak up, knowing when to bite your tongue. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has decided to increase the cacophony. A pilot project, reportedly focused on software innovations, will permit the public to submit prior art on a range of pending patent applications. Attorney Mark Hogge looks over the experiment and suggests there may be less here than meets the eye ( “So What Do You Think?”). It’s not that improving the range of prior art available to patent examiners is a bad idea, says Hogge. And it’s not that the Patent Office hasn’t built in some reasonable protections. It’s just that he wonders whether examiners are really missing as much prior art as the rhetoric sometimes claims. Over at the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, there’s a similar interest in hearing more from certain parties — in this case, the witnesses being cross-examined during depositions in interference contests. The board is equally eager to hear less from other parties — that is, opposing counsel who feel the need to object, and object, and object again. Attorney Malcolm McGowan analyzes the board’s recent call for fewer interruptions ( “Hush, Hush, Object Who Dares”). Perhaps I’m missing some of the subtle nuances, but the bottom line for lawyers seems to be: Shut up. On the lighter side, Janet Conley of Atlanta’s Daily Report, our sister publication, uncovered the full story behind a little prank that the marketing mavens at Coca-Cola played on their own legal counsel ( “Can We Sue Them for It?”). All in the interest of selling more Coke Zero, of course. And everybody who talked to Conley was a terribly good sport about being the butt of the joke. But I can’t help wondering if the lawyers-as-target aspect made the ad designers chortle just a wee bit more. — Elizabeth Engdahl Managing Editor

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