Scientific Evidence and Expert Testimony: Patent Litigation - Fall 2006

Prof. Morris
Last updated 9-11-06 11:50 am

Professor Roberta J. Morris Room 208 723-9505
Room 283
Meeting Time
Group Email scievseminar06




We will meet almost every Wednesday, usually for two hours, starting at 4:15.  See the Syllabus for the proposed schedule and some FAQs about class meetings.  (Later in the term the course homepage will have the latest version of the complete schedule for the whole term.) 

Attendance at class is mandatory.  Law students must attend all classes designated for law students, and may attend the classes and times designated as just for graduate students.  Grad students must attend all classes designated for grad students and may attend the law student-only classes.


Written work will be submitted electronically, probably using Coursework if that has advantages over email.


(Alan Kintisch, Michigan Law '93, then a student instructor in the writing program and formerly a prep school math teacher, suggested this kind of grading to me for the  legal writing course. I have found that it is well-suited to seminars because the students are generally well-motivated but may not know whether missing deadlines, or doing a superficial job, will have any consequences.  They will.  The contract spells this out.)

Grading will be by contract.  This means that you and I have an agreement that your grade is determined by how well you perform your obligations during the term.  "Performing your obligations" means doing everything
      - on time,
      - in the proper format (if written) and
      - in good faith (with the requisite amount of sincere and intelligent effort).             

Your specific obligations are:
     - weekly comments and comments-on-comments (comment^2s),
     - preparation of materials for your simulation project, including:
            -- being a productive member of the team to which you are assigned, and attending conferences with me and your team as required,
            -- timely handing in to me all assignments for the project,
            -- timely making needed modifications that I may request, and
            -- performing the simulation at the appointed time;
     - critiquing 2 simulations by the teams that perform the week you do not,
     - and, of course, being an active, intelligent and polite participant in the seminar.

Additional information concerning these obligations is set forth below.  If you meet all your obligations, your "contract" grade will be at least a B+, and possibly as high as an A+.  The quality of your work throughout the term will determine whether you receive the minimum contract grade, or whether you get a performance bonus of one or more grade levels. 

 If you breach the contract, however, your contract grade will be reduced as follows:

     Attendance: If you are absent from a required class without prior permission, your contract grade will drop one level for the first such absence (e.g., to a B for one unexcused absence), a full grade for the second (to a C), and two full grades for the third (to an F).  The only exception will be when it was not humanly possible for anyone to reach me before class to say that you will be unavoidably absent.  If you are unable to get to a telephone or a computer with email, but are able to communicate with a human being who can use either technology, please ask that person to contact me. 

     Weekly comments:  Your comment should be:
         - emailed by the specified time and day; 
         - proofread;
         - appropriately thoughtful and neither too long nor too short; and
         - transmitted as the TEXT of the message, and in PLAIN TEXT, not HTML (and without any HTML copy, please).

If your comment is not as expected, your contract grade will drop ONE level (e.g., to a B for one bad comment, to B- for two, etc.).   Comments can not be handed in after the deadline, so do not even bother to try.  Also, on the rare occasion when I excuse you from attending class (which I may do in extraordinary circumstances), you must still email your comment on time:  Palo Alto time, even if the reason for your absence is a ceremony in Stockholm.

     Weekly Comment^2s:  Your comment^2 must show the appropriate amount of good faith effort and thought, and must be emailed by the deadline specified in the assignment.  Otherwise, the contract grade will drop the same amount as for a bad regular comment.

     Critiques:  The final critiques of your colleagues' work must also be emailed to me by noon, December 8.  People critiquing simulations that take place on 11/29 and performing their own on 12/6 may want to submit their critiques earlier, but do not have to.  I will not forward the critiques to your fellow students until the 8th unless the critique-writer permits me to. 

     Written Work for Simulation Projects:   If you do not timely submit the written work required for the simulation project (which may consist of motion papers, outlines of testimony or briefs, and so on), your contract grade will drop TWO levels (e.g. from a B+ to a B-) for each 24 hours of lateness, up to 72 hours total.  (I use 24 hours increments to encourage you to attend class rather than miss class struggling to finish up whatever it is.  Because a millisecond after the deadline has the same consequences as does 23 hours and 59 minutes, you should come to class, eat something, take a nap, and then finish.) 

In extraordinary circumstances, obviously, the contract terms will be subject to renegotiation.  But do not expect any bending of the rules for a hangnail, or for something you would rather do instead of doing seminar work, or because you did not plan your time wisely and at the last minute fell victim to mechanical or electrical failures.  (For example, the statements "I had to drive my roommate to a job interview in Nevada" and "My printer broke down this morning" would not justify the failure to meet a deadline that has been known for weeks.)

Occasionally I encounter students who have lived their lives by being exceptions to rules.  I love a good story but am not swayed by homework-eating iguanas when law school performance is at issue.  My practices are designed to reward those for whom it is second nature to do the right thing.  


      Every week?? Comments will be due almost every week.  Some comment assignments may ask you to do provide information.   For example, for week 9 I will probably ask you to (1) identify the patent your team has chosen for your hypothetical lawsuit and (2) describe the progress you have made in obtaining the file history and prior art.   More often, however, I will pose questions about something you have been assigned to read that week.

      Timing and Transmission:  The comment must be emailed or posted by the time specified in the assignment.  It must be sent as the message itself, in plain text, no HTML, so please turn OFF the automatic HTML version that some email programs like to send, and not as an attachment, NO NEVER AS AN ATTACHMENT. Usually you will also have to comment on some aspect of a fellow student's comment, in accordance with instructions in the assignment.  I call these "comment^2's." They will also have a deadline, which will usually be several hours before class so that I can digest them.  We will discuss at the first class what is comfortable for the group as a whole for these deadlines.

Failure to hand in your weekly assignment on time in proper format will result in a reduction of your grade (see Grading by Contract, above).        

     Content:  Your submission should demonstrate that you have read and thought about the reading for that day.  It should reveal intelligence and application as well as enthusiasm for the intellectual challenge presented by the subject matter.  Your motto in this, as in all things (when possible), should be:  "Don't do it to get it done, do it to get it right."

     Length:  Your comment should be succinct without being insultingly brief:  between 1 and 1 1/2 pages.  (I define a  page as the Federal Circuit Court Rules used to specify for appellate briefs:  double-spaced in Courier 12 or Times Roman 14 with 1 inch margins all around.  Such a page has 200 to 250 words).  As a message, this translates to about 3500 bytes.  If you write very much more, the presumption will be that you haven't polished your writing sufficiently (or thought things through); if you write very much less, the presumption will be that you may not have thought enough or spent enough time writing.   Either way, you are likely to have failed to make the requisite "sincere/good faith effort."

      Appearances:  Your submission should be reader‑friendly:
           ‑ It must be proofread by eye.  Digital spell checkers do not find all the errors (and sometimes introduce some).  Of course, if you are a very poor speller, then by all means get whatever help you can.  But always proofread one more time by eye.   Typos, like spelling, grammatical and diction errors, are what I call STOPPERS: they stop the reader from going with the flow of the prose.  Everyone is guilty of STOPPERS; the difference is that good writers catch almost all of them before asking anyone else to read their work. Bad writers don't.
          ‑ It should look "finished."  Please look over what you wrote before you send it.  Correct things like very long lines and very short lines.  If I have to remind you of this, you are probably in breach already.
          ‑ It should include headings and other visual cues to help the busy reader.  At the very least, please identify the material to which your comment pertains.  If emailed, the subject line should tell me "Comment for [date]" and, if there are alternative subjects, indicate which you chose.  The body of your message should include short headings of a single word or phrase, unless I specify something longer.  (Sometimes I do explicitly ask for headings of the type:  "topic: emotion-laden adjective.")  If there are several questions, reproduce the numbering scheme of the questions in your comment.  If a section of your comment has two ideas, use headings to help the reader catch that fact quickly. 


       You will be asked to critique the simulations of the two teams that perform on the day you do not.
       Your critique should identify what I call three roses and three thorns.  Try to vary the level of focus, concentrating on the forest as well as the trees.  We will discuss this (and perhaps dispense with botanical analogies) in greater detail in class.
       Your comments should be substantive and helpful.  This is your chance to demonstrate the kind of feedback you wish(ed) to receive at school and work. 

I hope you will enjoy the seminar and learn a great deal from it.  I will do my best to make it happen.
Thank you.