The Advantage Blog

Secrets to Working With a Highly Educated Jury

September 30, 2013 | By | ,

While Western Washington isn’t known as a prime location for Intellectual property suits, some of the publicity around the recent Microsoft v. Motorola case might change that perception.  Judge Robart commented on the high level of education in the jury pool, with a famous scientist ultimately serving as the presiding juror.

A highly intelligent jury can certainly be useful in a complicated IP case, and there are other advantages as well for plaintiffs in these cases.  A review of the mock trials Tsongas has done over the years reveals that attitudes in Western Washington are more pro-plaintiff than jurors in other locations around the country where we have conducted research projects.  Western Washington jurors are more likely to side with the plaintiff overall, and specifically on infringement questions, and less likely to invalidate a patent.  Jurors here have a greater respect for patents and recognize the time and money that needs to be invested to achieve such protection.

It is important to note, however, that even though Seattle-area jurors are better educated than most parts of the country, they are by no means experts on IP law or in the subject matter being addressed in most IP cases.  Attorneys need to be cautious about assuming they can focus on the minutia of the patent or trademark at issue, or the peculiarities of patent law.  Our research has shown that jurors prefer to focus on big picture issues when making their decisions, and often look at basic characteristics of two products to determine infringement, without looking at or understanding the details of the relevant patent claims.  Jurors also consider the values and principles they see aligned with each side in the dispute to guide their decision-making.

The key lesson from our experience is that Western Washington is a smart, plaintiff-friendly place to try your case, but that jurors are still primarily interested in the matter’s basic themes when making up their minds.  It will be interesting to see if in the wake of Microsoft v. Motorola more plaintiffs decide to file and try their cases here in the future.

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