Legal Research Blog


USPTO Announces "Green" Initiative

The USPTO announced on Monday that it would begin a pilot program to accellerate the examination of patent applications for “green” technologies. According to the USPTO “The new initiative, coming days before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, will accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector.”

If all goes well, the average time it takes to patent a qualifying “green” technology will be reduced by about a year. That may not sound like much, but imagine what one-year head start in the market could mean for consumer technologies like automobiles.

What types of technologies will qualify for expedited treatment? You can find the full list of eligible classfications in the Federal Register. Some notable entries include: human-powered vehicles, hybrid-powered vehicles, wind-powered ships, alternative irrigation techniques, and water conservation systems. Although the list of classifications is suprisingly detailed, with so much at stake, you can be assured that this is a question that will be the soon be the subject of litigation.

Did you know: This move — providing regulatory incentives to entice the industry to focus research and development — is not without precedent. Back in 1997, Congress enacted a law that provided marketing incentives — specifically 6 months of marketing exclusivity — to drug manufacturers who conduct studies of drugs in children. This law, commonly known as the pediatric exclusivity provision, was part of the Food and Drug Modernization Act. Congress felt that incentives were needed to produce safe and effective pediatric drugs because pharmaceutical firms were reluctant to perform clinical trials on children because the pediatric market is often small relative to the adult market as well as the difficulty of obtaining informed consent for pediatric testing.

Is it working? Well, the answer to that question depends on what you think of the 172 drugs that have been granted exclusivity under this program.

Sources: USPTO, FDA


Business Intelligence and People Finder Now Available on Fastcase!

We are delighted to announce our partnership with ReferenceLegal, the leading provider of business and consumer intelligence to the legal profession. ReferenceLegal’s database contains information on more than 14 million U.S. businesses, 210 million U.S. residents, and 855,000 U.S. health care providers.

Fastcase subscribers can now harness the power of ReferenceLegal’s vast public records database to run conflict checks, perform corporate due diligence, screen potential clients, opponents, and business partners, locate consulting experts and expert witnesses, and much more.
Access ReferenceLegal Through Fastcase

You can find ReferenceLegal under our Public Records search link. Simply select Public Records from the Search menu and click on the ReferenceLegal logo. (Alternatively, you can choose the Search Public Records link on the Quick Case Law Search page.) From here, you can subscribe to ReferenceLegal online on an annual or a monthly basis and instantly start researching. You can even take ReferenceLegal for a test drive by signing up for a free trial.

Fastcase’s Hidden Gem: A Second Level of Citation Analysis

One of the most powerful (and nerdy, if we do say so ourselves) features of Fastcase is also one of the most hidden. This hidden gem is Authority Check’s second level of citation analysis which analyzes the number of citations within your search results. This feature– let’s call it “Within Search Results”– takes a little extra effort to find – you have to check the box labeled “Show Number of Citations in Search Results” at the bottom of the Advanced Case Law Search page – but the effort is well worth it.

The idea behind Within Search Results is that the more frequently a case has been cited by other cases containing the same search terms, the more likely it is that the case is authoritative on that topic. In order to appreciate the power of Within Search Results, it helps to compare it to the first level of citation analysis on Fastcase.

First Level of Citation Analysis: Entire Database

Every time you perform a search, Fastcase automatically analyzes how many times each case in your search results has been cited by other cases in the Fastcase database. This first-level citation analysis is available under the heading “Entire Database” on the results page. By clicking on the Entire Database heading, you can instantly sort your search results so that the most frequently cited case jumps to the top of your list. It is easy to see why looking at a frequently cited case is helpful. All cases are not created equal and the more important ones tend to be relied on and cited more frequently by those cases that come after them.

But – as you may already be thinking to yourself – just because a case is cited frequently does not necessarily mean that it is being cited on the topic that you are interested in. How do you find cases that are frequently cited on your research topic? Use Within Search Results.

Second Level of Citation Analysis: Within Search Results

By taking advantage of Fastcase’s second-level of citation analysis, you can fill in this missing piece of the picture. By focusing on the cases cited most frequently by cases containing the search terms in your query, Within Search Results drastically reduces the false positives that can result from the first level of citation analysis.

If this still sounds like Greek to you, take the following example:

If you search for the phrase “separate but equal,” a phrase etched into this country’s consciousness by the Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, you will get several hundred results. Buried somewhere in the results list is Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) – a case that few would disagree is the seminal case on the topic of race-based segregation, the concept embodied by the phrase “separate but equal.”

With one click, you can sort these results by the number of citations in the entire Fastcase database – just click the heading “Entire Database” on the results page. Your search results will be reshuffled so that the Supreme Court’s decision in Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737 (1984) because Allen has been cited over 1900 times.Allen, a case that considers the I.R.S. policy of denying tax-exempt status to racially discriminatory schools, is certainly on point — but it is not the seminal case on race based segregation

If instead, you sort your results by the number of citations within your search results – do this by clicking on the “These Results” heading on the results page – Brown v. Board of Education rises swiftly to the top spot on the list!

So next time you perform a search on Fastcase, give our “Within Search Results” citation analysis a try and see for yourself.

Fastcase Tips: Constructing a Broad Keyword Search

Get your week started off right with a Fastcase Research Tip. Today, we have tips for creating a broad search query. When you are getting started on a new research project, it is usually a good idea to start with a broad search query and then narrow your query until you get an acceptable number of results. Use these tips to make sure you are not inadvertently excluding decisions that address your topic.

  1. Use synonyms. Try including common synonyms for the keywords in your query. For example, if one of your search terms is car, include automobile and vehicle in your search as well.

Instead of: “fourth amendment” & car

Try: “fourth amendment” & car or “fourth amendment” & vehicle or “fourth amendment” & automobile

  1. Use the wildcard operator. By truncating a search term down to the root of the word and adding an asterisk at the end, your search with automatically pick-up multiple forms of the word including plurals. For example, a search for contract* will pick-up all of the following terms:

Contractor, contracting, contracts, contracting, contracted, etc.

  1. Avoid quotation marks. Rather than putting a phrase in quotation marks, try constructing a query using keywords in the phrase connected with the within operator. This will reduce the chances that you are excluding cases that use slightly different words.

Instead of: breach of contract

Try: breach w/3 contract because this picks up phrases like breached its contract, breach of the contract, etc.

Facebook: The Perfect Alibi

In the past, we have blogged about how social-networking can get lawyers and defendants in to hot water. Well, there are two-sides to every coin, and today The New York Times reports how 19 year-old Rodney Bradford’s Facebook status updates kept him out of jail. Bradford’s defense lawyer persuaded a prosecutor to drop robbery charges against his client for a robbery in Brooklyn by demonstrating that Bradford had an alibi — he had updated his status in Manhattan at the time of the incident proving that he couldn’t have been in Brooklyn at the time.