Legal Research Blog


People v. Superman?

Sure Superman can see through walls and fly faster than a speeding bullet, but how would he hold up on cross examination?  And would courtroom marshalls be able to restrain the Incredible Hulk?

Action Comics no. 359 (Feb. 1968).

Action Comics no. 359 (Feb. 1968). Personal collection of Mark S. Zaid, Esq. via Yale Law Library - Rare Books Blog

These are just some of the questions that visitors of the Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library’s, “Superheroes in Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books,” exhibit may be pondering. The exhibit, featured in a recent New York Times Article, is guest-curated by Washington D.C. attorney and avid comic collector, Mark S. Zaid.

The exhibition will be on display through Dec. 16, 2010, in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, located on Level L2 of the Lillian Goldman Law Library in the Yale Law School (127 Wall St., New Haven CT).

Even if you can’t make it to New Haven, you can view some of the highlights on Yale’s Rare Books Blog, here.

Happy Labor Day

shared via Flickr CC by Robert Couse-Baker

Fastcase will be closed in observance of Labor Day on Monday September 6, 2010.

We’ll be back on Tuesday.  Have a terrific Labor Day weekend.

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With this ring, I assign you my patent rights

Here’s a patent case that’ll have all inventors closely following their state’s marital property laws and strongly considering the content of their prenuptial agreements.

Mundi Fomukong invents “patents-in-suit” during his marriage to Fonda Whitfield.  After his first patent was issued, Mr. Fomukong and Ms. Witfield divorce. A second patent follows shortly. Mr. Fomukong then forms Enpvsys and assigns his rights to the new company.

Enovsys, after the assignment, sues Sprint-Nextel for patent infringement , while the defendant challenges the case on standing. Standing, you  ask? Sprint wittily argued that any patent infringement actions must be brought jointly by all co-owners of the patent. Specifically, here Sprint argued that Ms. Whitfield retained an interest in the patent rights even after the divorce. This is where the case starts to sound like a steamy soap opera script: Ms. Whitfield assigned her rights to Sprint. Does the phrase, “Hell have no fury like a woman scorned,” come to mind?

When deciding this case, the court first looked to the law of California — the site of the marriage, invention, and divorce. Because California is a “community property” state, “all assets acquired during a marriage are presumptively community property.”  I know what you’re thinking, Fomukong’s about to lose out on lots of money, right? Not so fast…

The court eventually parted from California law because, in their divorce filings, Fomukong and Whitfield checked the box next to the statement, “We have no community assets or liabilities.”

The Federal Circuit, without focus on California’s property law, held that that the final divorce decree – coupled with this box-checking – stripped Whitfield of her community property rights in the patent. “[A]lthough the final divorce decree was silent as to particular property, it nevertheless adjudicated the parties’ rights with respect to that property because it was based on an uncontested complaint which alleged that there was no community property.”

So just how much did Mr. Fomukong almost lose out on, you wonder? The court decided that the patent infringement was worth $2.78 million.

Click here to read/download the full decision.

Why so serious?

The folks at Google Scholar dug up some entertaining legal opinions this week, and well, the geeks at Fastcase got such a kick out of these decisions that we just have to pass a few along. You can check out Google’s full post here.

Our favorite is Rimes v. Curb Records (2001), a case in which country music star LeAnn Rimes faced record company Curb Records.  Impressively, Chief Judge Buchmeyer wrote this comedic decision “to be sung to the tune of LeAnn Rimes, ‘How Do I Live’.”  Click here to view/print the full opion.  Here’s the first portion…

“LeAnn Rimes

A very rich and famous star

Wasn’t so rich in times afar

But what a talent she had!

Enter Curb

To sign a contract, they hoped

After her talent they scoped…”

Foodies and New Englanders will enjoy the second decision which features a lengthy history of New England Clam Chowder, and even a recipe from The Boston Cooking School Cook Book. Perhaps the White House chefs used a similar recipe here in D.C. for today’s (Friday) White House Soup of the Day, which was also Clam Chowder. Click here to view/print Webster v. Blue Ship Tea Room (1964).  Here’s a portion that truly illustrates the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ love for good chowder…

“The defendant asserts that here was a native New Englander eating fish chowder in a “quaint” Boston dining place where she had been before; that “[f]ish chowder, as it is served and enjoyed by New Englanders, is a hearty dish, originally designed to satisfy the appetites of our seamen and fishermen”; that “[t]his court knows well that we are not talking of some insipid broth as is customarily served to convalescents.” We are asked to rule in such fashion that no chef is forced “to reduce the pieces of fish in the chowder to miniscule size in an effort to ascertain if they contained any pieces of bone.” “In so ruling,” we are told (in the defendant’s brief), “the court will not only uphold its reputation for legal knowledge and acumen, but will, as loyal sons of Massachusetts, save our world-renowned fish chowder from degenerating into an insipid broth containing the mere essence of its former stature as a culinary masterpiece.”

Familiar with any colorful decisions?  Shoot us an email to, we’d love to post it, tweet it, or just have a laugh.