Reprehensible Rhetoric: Public Dollars Spent Bashing Patents – to What End

Judge Rodney Gilstrap

“Issa’s comments are entirely inappropriate and unjustified, and serve only to fuel a vicious and destructive false narrative…”


Patrick Anderson Image by: Patrick Anderson | July 24, 2017

Darrell Issa, Republican Representative from California, recently aimed pointed, disrespectful comments at federal district court Judge Rodney Gilstrap (pictured right) referring to a recent ruling as a “reprehensible act.” This type of rhetoric is commonly reserved for heated political issues like immigration, abortion, or the death penalty, but Issa here was referring to matters of intellectual property. If Rep. Issa believes Judge Gilstrap has done something unethical, or believes his rulings to be centered around furthering a specific agenda in a manner that makes him unfit to serve, then it is absolutely incumbent upon Issa to bring such issues to light. However, it is entirely inappropriate for Rep. Issa to mischaracterize Judge Gilstrap’s work in order to do so. Upon listening to his comments, it is clear that Issa either intentionally misrepresents what Gilstrap’s decision accomplished or blindly relies on briefings and summaries crafted for a particular (negative patent) agenda.

First, Rep. Issa demonstrates complete ignorance on the issues decided in TC Heartland. Issa describes the decision as an attempt by the Supreme Court to, primarily, stop the “overreach” of the Eastern District of Texas and its alleged attractiveness to particular classes of patent owners. To call this a half-truth would be extremely generous. The case originated in Delaware, not Texas, and involved litigation between competitors. The debate before the Supreme Court was squarely one of statutory interpretation of seemingly contradictory legislative meanings behind various (boring) revisions to venue law that took place over a period of decades.

Second, Rep. Issa demonstrates complete ignorance of Judge Gilstrap’s opinion, falsely claiming that Gilstrap interpreted venue law in a way that “rejects” the Supreme Court’s decision. Judge Gilstrap, simply put, has done no such thing, nor can he. Gilstrap, like all district judges, is bound by Supreme Court precedent. However, the TC Heartland decision (like every venue decision in the past 20 years) utterly lacks any discussion of 28 USC 1 §400(b), requiring development and interpretation by lower courts.

Finally, Issa accuses Gilstrap of a form of nepotism, motivated by an alleged desire to keep as many cases as possible in his courtroom, benefiting the “community Gilstrap represents” along with the local hotels and law firms. These words are blatantly absurd by a member of the House of Representatives who, presumably, understands our three branches of government.

In case he needs a refresher, perhaps one of his legislative aides can remind Issa that federal judges do not mount re-election campaigns, do not serve local districts, and enjoy lifetime tenure stripping any motivation to tailor decisions to benefit a group of donors, unlike members of Congress.

Simply put, Issa’s comments are entirely inappropriate and unjustified, and serve only to fuel a vicious and destructive false narrative, to the detriment of inventors, patent owners, and the public as a whole whom Issa purports to serve. In short, the only “reprehensible act” here is the one committed by Rep. Issa.

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