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Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Re Apple vs. Samsung:

The jury instructions for the patent portion of the case is about 11 paragraphs. The instructions for some other, simpler crimes can go well beyond that.

So, should we throw in the towel on cases of welfare fraud because the jury instructions are complicated? What about jury instructions for first degree murder, which can run into lengthy explanation of definitions and circumstances? Preliminary jury instructions for the New York State Unified Court System runs into 49 pages. Sure, not all those instructions are used for any one case, but many of them are. The few paragraphs given to the jury for this patent case are simple by comparison.

If it takes 30 or 40 pages of instructions to a jury for a murder trial, it makes me wonder about the suitability of criminal law. How well qualified is a juror to determine credibility of expert witnesses and whether to believe eyewitness accounts. How does a juror decide between three or four shades of variation with respect to types of murder, knowing that the decision they make will determine whether the defendant goes to prison for a few years, for life, or gets the death penalty? Deciding relatively well defined patent issues is easy by comparison.

Of course, patent trials are a teeny tiny fraction of all trials in the United States, so the complex jury instructions for common crimes and court cases are more likely to be encountered by a typical individual than instructions for a patent case.

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