Interesting Bits of Law

"The law" is a big and complex thing (so at least some lawyers really do add value to society). Here are a few small bits of law that I find interesting for various reasons. This page is far from comprehensive; it's just a place for me to post statutes and cases that I am discussing on Usenet or in my blog, DTM :<|. With that caveat, enjoy!


Patent (Title 35)
Note: The Patent Act was amended in significant ways on September 16, 2011 by the America Invents Act of 2011. The sections linked below are the old versions, before the amendment.
  1. § 102: Conditions for patentability; novelty and loss of right to patent
  2. § 103: Conditions for patentability; non-obvious subject matter
  3. § 112: Specification
  4. § 251: Reissue of Defective Patents
  5. § 292: False Marking
Copyright (Title 17)
  1. § 109: First Sale Doctrine, "Limitations On Exclusive Rights: Effect Of Transfer Of Particular Copy Or Phonorecord"
  2. § 301: "Preemption With Respect To Other Laws"
  3. § 512: DMCA notice & takedown and safe harbor provisions, "Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act"
  4. § 1201: DMCA anticircumvention provisions, "Circumvention Of Copyright Protection Systems"
Other Federal Statutes
  1. CAN-SPAM Act: 15 U.S.C. Chapter 103, §§ 7701–7713
  2. Communications Decency Act (CDA) § 230: 47 U.S.C. § 230
  3. Counsel's Liability For Excessive Costs: 28 U.S.C. § 1927
  4. Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) / Economic Espionage Act (EEA): 18 U.S.C. §§ 1831–1839
  5. Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO): 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968
  6. Unsworn declarations under penalty of perjury: 28 U.S.C. § 1746
California Statutes
  1. Admitting & Excluding Evidence: Cal. Evid. Code §§ 350–406
  2. Affidavits: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 2009–2015.6
  3. Agency: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2295–2357
  4. Anti-SLAPP & SLAPP-back: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 425.16–425.18
  5. Arbitration: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. Part 3, Title 9, §§ 1280–1294.2
  6. Computer Fraud & Abuse: Penal Code § 502
  7. Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA): Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1750–1784
  8. Displaced Janitor Opportunity Act: Cal. Labor Code §§ 1060–1065
  9. Elder Abuse: Cal. Welfare & Institutions Code §§ 15600–15610.65 & 15657–15657.5
  10. Exemplary Damages: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 3294–3296
  11. Gift Certificates: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1749.45–1749.6
  12. Hand Held Wireless Telephone Prohibited Use: Cal. Vehicle Code §§ 23123–23125 (California's no-cell-phone-while-driving law)
  13. Hiring of Real Property: Cal. Civ. Code § 1950.5
  14. Indemnity: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2772–2784.5
  15. Interpretation of Contracts: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1635–1663
  16. Invasion of Privacy Act (IPA): Cal. Penal Code §§ 630–638
  17. Inventions Made by an Employee: Cal. Labor Code §§ 2870–2872
  18. Lawyer-Client Privilege: Cal. Evid. Code §§ 950—962
  19. Maxims of Jurisprudence: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 3509–3548
  20. Mortgage Foreclosure Consultant Act (MFCA): Cal. Civ. Code §§ 2945–2945.11
  21. Reader Privacy Act: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1798.90–1798.90.05
  22. Resale Royalties Act: Cal. Civ. Code § 986
  23. Signing of papers & candor to courts: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 128.7
  24. Small Claims Act: Cal. Code Civ. Proc. §§ 116.110–116.950
  25. Song-Beverly Credit Card Act: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1747–1748.95
  26. Spousal Privileges: Cal. Evid. Code §§ 970–973, 980–987
  27. Supermarket Club Cards: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1749.60–1749.66
  28. Theft: Cal. Penal Code §§ 484 & 496
  29. Transcript copies & fees: Cal. Gov. Code § 69954
  30. Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA): Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1633.1–1633.17
  31. Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA): Cal. Civ. Code §§ 3426–3426.11
  32. Unlawful Contracts: Cal. Civ. Code §§ 1667–1670.8
  33. Vehicle Insurance Card: Cal. Vehicle Code § 16028


  1. Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters


IP Cases
  1. A&M Records v. Napster
  2. BMC Resources v. Paymentech: The court rejected the novel "divided infringement" theory of liability.
  3. E. Bement & Sons v. La Dow: The court discussed how the uncertainty of patent litigation significantly reduces the value of patents. In 1895!
  4. Cartoon Network v. CSC Holdings ("Cablevision"): Cablevision's remote-storage DVR does not directly infringe content providers' copyrights.
  5. Egyptian Goddess v. Swisa: The CAFC remade the law of design patent infringement (en banc).
  6. Feist Publications v. Rural Telephone Serivice Co.: Supreme Court explained the originality and authorship requirements for copyright protection.
  7. Forest Group v. Bon Tool: The CAFC held that the penalty for false marking is assessed on a per-article basis.
  8. International Seaway Trading v. Walgreens: In design patent cases, the ordinary observer test determines invalidity by anticipation (as well as infringement)
  9. KSR v. Teleflex: Supreme Court examines what it means for a patent to be "obvious" in light of the prior art and, therefore, invalid
  10. MGM Studios v. Grokster
  11. NTP v. Research in Motion: Activity outside the U.S. can avoid infringement of method claims in a U.S. patent, but system claims may still be infringed.
  12. Richardson v. Stanley Works: The Stepclaw & Fubar design patent case
  13. Trade-Mark Cases: Supreme Court held that a trademark is not "intellectual property" under federal law because Congress lacks the power to enact a trademark statute under Article 1, § 8, clause 8 of the Constitution
First Amendment Cases
  1. Edwards v. Aguillard: Supreme Court struck down Louisiana's "Creationism Act," which forbade the teaching of evolution in public elementary and secondary schools unless accompanied by instruction in the theory of "creation science."
  2. Everson v. Board of Education of the Township of Ewing: Supreme Court examined the constitutionality of state-sponsored bussing of children to private, religious schools
  3. Fair Housing Counsel v. The 9th Circuit en banc held that CDA § 230 does not immunize from suit under the Fair Housing Act because's choice of questions in its online questionnaires had the effect of "inducing [users] to express illegal preferences" in their housing profiles (e.g., race, gender, marital status)
  4. Junger v. Daley: District Court finds that software code does not qualify as "speech" under the First Amendment
  5. Junger v. Daley: Sixth Circuit court of appeals reversed the District Court holding, finding that software code does qualify as "speech" under the First Amendment
  6. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District: District Court found that intelligent design is not science
  7. Scopes v. State of Tennessee: The famous "monkey trial" case.
  8. Steve Jackson Games v. U.S. Secret Service: Illegal search & seizure of documents and computer equipment
Miscellaneous Cases
  1. In rem cases: Odd and funny case names
  2. Allied Chemical v. Hess Tankship: "It was a dark and stormy night."
  3. Avista Management Inc. v. Wausau Underwriters Ins. Co.: Court orders attorneys to play Rock-Paper-Scissors
  4. Bell v. Feibush: California's theft statute provides a civil right of action for treble damages
  5. U.S. v. Boucher (Boucher 1): U.S. Magistrate Judge held that the 5th Amendment privilege requires that a criminal defendant may not be compelled to divulge a password for an encrypted hard drive
  6. U.S. v. Boucher (Boucher 2): U.S. District Judge overruled the Magistrate's ruling in Boucher 1
  7. Campbell v. HHS: The court discussed the reliability of Wikipedia articles as evidence in court
  8. Catholic Healthcare West v. CIGA: CIGA suffers a rare appellate defeat
  9. People v. Collins: The California Supreme Court addressed the use of mathematical evidence in court. "Mathematics, a veritable sorcerer in our computerized society, while assisting the trier of fact in the search for truth, must not cast a spell over him."
  10. Engblom v. Carey: A rare appellate opinion on personal rights arising out of the Third Amendment
  11. Hellar v. Bianco: Graffiti on the bathroom wall of a tavern can be defamatory, and the tavern may be liable for defamation if it fails to remove the graffiti.
  12. Ex Parte Jackson: Supreme Court recognized the secrecy of letters doctrine under the Fourth Amendment
  13. Lodi v. Lodi: "This case started when plaintiff Oreste Lodi sued himself in the Shasta County Superior Court."
  14. Hawkins v. McGee: The famous "hairy hand" case
  15. Kearney v. Solomon Smith Barney: California's Supreme Court applied California's law against recording phone calls without consent to a phone call placed from Georgia to a California resident, where Georgia's law would have permitted the recording
  16. KinderStart v. Google: Dismissal and denial of anti-SLAPP motion
  17. KinderStart v. Google: Court imposes Rule 11 sanctions against KinderStart's attorney for asserting allegations without a good-faith basis
  18. Nix v. Hedden: The Supreme Court held that a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit
  19. Palsgraf v. Long Island R.R. Co.: Coincidences; but, unfortunately, no hilarity ensues
  20. Pineda v. Williams-Sonoma: A zip code is "personal identification information" under California's Song-Beverly Credit Card Act
  21. Stambovsky v. Ackley: Homeowner cultivated a public reputation that her house was haunted (apparently motivated by profit) by poltergeists but failed to disclose this "fact" when she sold the house. The buyer sued to rescind his contract to buy the house; the court held that the homeowner "is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted."
  22. United Novelty v. Daniels: The semi-famous "flaming rat" case.

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