Author: Kristen Osenga


Are Law Professors Allowed to Have On-Line Friends?


There have been some great posts on social networking and in particular, Facebook (see here, here, here, and here for just a few examples). There have even been posts on whether academics should use Facebook, like this one.

I don’t want to wander into that discussion…instead I want to talk about a different type of on-line community — the non-law related, subject area discussion forum — and the potential negative effects it has for law professors.

Consider a true story – the names and many details have been changed to protect the guilty (and no, it’s NOT about me)…

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Unicorns, PHOSITAs, and Other Creatures


The “reasonable man” or “reasonable person” is that mythical creature (not unlike a unicorn) that exists in many different areas of law purportedly to allow us to view the situation at issue from a reasoned, logical, objective perspective. We have in patent law a special breed of this legendary beast – the “person having ordinary skill in the art” or PHOSITA. In teaching students about the PHOSITA, I had always assumed that the concept would be fairly simple to grasp, since the reasonable person was, or at least should be, familiar to them. This assumption was shattered, indirectly, by one student’s exam answer.

I am not sure if the student was absent the day I introduced the PHOSITA and thus he took me at my phonetic pronunciation, or if instead he was clever and was making a point I had earlier failed to grasp. (I personally believe the former, but I could be wrong.) Anyway, he answered all of his exam questions by looking at the issue from the perspective of the “Faux-Cita.” The fairy-tale beast raises its ugly head…

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Dramatic Reading of Judicial Opinions


Maybe out of fear that my students won’t find patent law as fantastic as I do, I make a point of telling them at the beginning of the semester that reading patent cases can be fun, exciting, and dramatic. I imagine they generally roll their eyes – although I try not to look. Their disbelief becomes palpable when I follow up by suggesting that they read the cases out loud. I know they won’t, but eventually we get to some point in the semester, when I jump up on a table (figuratively) and throw out my hand in a very Hamlet-esque, “Alas poor Yorick” pose (literally) and provide a dramatic reading of the more amusing portions of the day’s cases…

From the Phillips case:

What we have wrought, instead, is the substitution of a black box, as it so pejoratively has been said of the jury, with the black hole of this court. Out of this void we emit ‘legal’ pronouncements by way of ‘interpretive necromancy’; these rulings resemble reality, if at all, only by chance.

Eloquent words can mask much mischief. The court’s opinion today is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic–the orchestra is playing as if nothing is amiss, but the ship is still heading for Davey Jones’ locker.

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Yes, sir – very atomic!

First, let me say thank you to the folks at Concurring Opinions for giving me this opportunity to guest blog. I’m looking forward to sharing some ideas I have on law, language, patents, and science. But first, I want to talk about a really awful movie.

This weekend, I got to thinking about an old musical/cult film I had seen in college – “The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T.” The 1953 movie is most noted for being the only feature film written by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), who also wrote the music lyrics. Quick summary of the plot – Bart is a little boy who is being forced to take piano lessons from Dr. Terwilliker. Bart hates the lessons and complains to everyone – including the friendly neighborhood plumber. Bart falls asleep and enters a fantasy world (very Wizard of Oz) where his piano teacher has become a madman. The piano teacher has imprisoned all non-piano-playing musicians and has built a piano so large it must be played by 500 little boys that the piano teacher has enslaved (including Bart). Bart tries to escape and seeks the help of the plumber, who happens to be installing sinks in the piano teacher’s institute. Working together, they build a device from the junk they have in their pockets (very MacGyver) that sucks all the noise from the giant piano. The little boys escape and the world is a better place.

So why was I thinking about this movie?

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