Do Patents Really Promote Innovation?

For me, the most important lesson provided by the Sony, Napster and MGM case was to study how the law can deal with “[t]he tension between the competing values of supporting creativity through copyright protection and promoting technological innovation by limiting infringement liability.”

Both patent and copyright protections are based on the idea that people should be rewarded by the time, money and effort invested to develop a new idea. However, at the same time, too rigorous protection can also prevent people from using freely such ideas too develop their new own ideas and therefore boost the innovation process.

This editorial of the Economist strongly criticizes the current American patent system, by stating that it fails to promote innovation. In sum, the editorial argues that the patent system allows people to patent ideas that are never exploited or licensed by the owners; do not establish more rigorous requirements for what can be considered truly a new idea; and concedes protection for too long.

Differently, in this article the author provides evidence that countries with low patent protection leads to incentive to copy rather than promoting new inventions.

The answer may be on how efficiently the patent law can address the dilemma between patent protection and encouraging innovation. This (long) article describes how South Korea was able to foster economic development through a system of patents that has been constantly amended (sixteen times between 1997 and 2010) to address international standards and the constant changing of technological requirements. Also, the author supports the idea that South Korea successfully created a government organizational that incentive inventors at the same time it promotes protection to those engaged in coming up with new ideas.

Online Education for Law Schools?

Following our discussion in class this week, I wanted to do some further research into what options for online courses currently exist in the higher education sphere, and where the market for online education seems to be moving. One of the first articles that I came across dealt with a type of school that I had not considered as being a key target for online education– law schools. According to this article, the American Bar Association itself has initially approved a proposal to allow for more credits of law school to be taken online.

Specifically, the proposal “increase[s] the amount of distance learning that a law school could allow as part of its J.D. program.” One-third of a school’s required credits for graduation could be earned through “distance learning.” In addition, the proposal removes a currently existing prohibition on distance learning courses for 1Ls. The proposal will be put out for Notice and Comment in Washington, D.C. on April 12th.

I found these developments to be impactful for several reasons. While I think that online education for undergraduate institutions is quite common, I had not specially considered the advantages of online learning for law students. Upon thinking about this, I have realized that online education for law students could help to confront some of the issues with law education that we mentioned in class. Particularly, if these online courses allowed for some sort of tuition deduction, this could help students avoid some amount of the burdening student debt that seems to affect an exorbitant number of law students. Another potential advantage for law students would be that if they are able to take courses on their own time online, that may leave more time to get hands-on work experience during typically working hours, rather than being stuck in class.

While I personally think that the in-person law school experience is invaluable, especially as a 1L, I can imagine a plethora of situations where being able to take online courses in law school could help potential lawyers financially and socially.

A Unique Option for Affordable Legal Services

This article seems pretty relevant to what we were discussing last class…

A Unique Option for Affordable Legal Services

Washington is the first state in the country to offer an affordable legal support option to help meet the needs of those unable to afford the services of an attorney. Legal technicians, also known as limited license legal technicians (LLLT), are currently trained through education and practice experience requirements and are licensed by the Washington Supreme Court to advise and assist people going through divorce, child custody, and other family-law matters in Washington. Legal technicians  consult with and advise clients, complete and file necessary court documents, help with court scheduling, and support clients in navigating the often confusing maze of the legal system.

Think of them as being similar to nurse practitioners who can treat patients and prescribe medication but not do everything that a doctor can. LLLTs are well trained, qualified, and competent professionals who can provide you with the help you need.

Look for other practice areas to be approved in the future.

ABA Offers Employee Buyouts Ahead of Reorganization (can’t access without membership) (what I can only assume is the content of the article)

The ABA is offering a buy out to its long term employees as an incentive for them to retire. Executive director of the ABA, Jack Rives, notes that eliminating or transforming positions is a frequent occurrence during reorganization. The re-organization is expected to occur in mid-April and are financially motivated as caused by declining membership and dues. According to the article, “nearly $11 million” was cut from general operations budge in the fiscal year of 2018 (see article). The treasure of the ABA said in a presentation to the ABA’s House of Delegates last week that an “additional $5 million in cuts are needed for the coming year.” (Id.) A $7.7 million operating deficit was reported in 2017. Executive director Rives told the House of Delegates lawyer membership to the ABA has dropped from 50 percent 40 years ago to 22 percent today.” (Id.). The ABA hopes to develop a new model that will help fight the declining members and the declining number of those members that are paying dues. (Id.).

Are the declining numbers explainable in part by the proliferation of resources available through other technology outlets? Is this just the beginning of old model failures coming to the surface?


Axiom: “a new era of legal services”

This company, Axiom,  represents the type of innovation within the legal industry that we are talking about in class. The company recognized the problems of traditional law firms– over billing, the partnership pyramid, and combined with economic factors, the overall loss of interest in practice by their own people.

They recognized an opportunity to innovate and now their business model is almost like a cross between part-time attorneys and the Legal Zoom online lawyering model. The result is lower rates than a traditional law firm

Innovation and Law Firms


Here is a great article from the Financial Times that discusses some of the reasons why the legal profession and law firms have been slow to adopt innovative changes to their business models. Among the takeaways, two stand out for me.

First, it will be difficult to tell lawyers at big law firms to change the traditional law firm model given that it has been so profitable for partners at firms. Richard Susskind was quoted in this article, and he clearly frames the problem that traditional law firms present to innovation: “It is hard to tell a room full of millionaires that they might have their business model wrong.”

Second, the traditional model has fostered a cycle that is difficult to disrupt as the traditional law firm model has been adopted by many as “business as usual.” The normal course of business in these firms is to pay out profits to partners, rather than using capital for innovation and firm development. The article points out that “[t]he glue that binds these law firms together is partner remuneration, which — as the profession’s most popular measure of success and retention — has to rise every year. The leaders of these firms, more often than not, feel they must pay out the profits of the firm annually to the partners rather than invest in research and development.” A model that pressures firm leaders to continue business in the traditional sense will struggle in incorporating innovative ideas.

The article provides some hope that innovation and change, albeit slow-moving, is on the horizon in the law. Corporate counsel are coming up with more creative solutions to their legal challenges, seeking less expensive alternatives to traditional law firms. The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (Cloc) is also inspiring as it brings together legal operations managers from large corporate settings to share best practices and ideas. Cloc may very well be one of the stronger examples of design thinking in legal services. However, so long as the notion persists that ‘no one ever got in trouble with their supervisor for engaging a white shoe law firm,’ innovation will continue to be an uphill battle.

Back to the drawing-board

This article evaluates one of the world’s most prominent design consultancies, IDEO. IDEO’s “design thinking” has three elements: diverse hiring, analyzing problems from the consumer’s point of view, and making everything tangible. As the world progresses and becomes more diverse, “design thinking” is a method that can be used to adapt and excel.

Elon Musk on Lean Entrepreneurship and Innovation

This is a pretty interesting article about Elon Musk and Tesla that touches both on lean entrepreneurship and innovation. Musk believes he can utilize robotic technology to drastically increase the productivity of his next factory. He estimates that his factory for the “new model Y” will be able to produce one million vehicles a year, which would make it the busiest factory in the world.

Interestingly, many doubt that Elon’s dream factory will ever become a reality. Without really explaining why, the article discusses that practical concerns may derail the planned factory. Apparently there are still things that need to be done by actual people. It will be interesting to see whether Elon Musk will prove these doubters wrong.