Friday, May 29, 2009

Sympathy? Sí. Empathy? No.

WireImage -Judge Sonia Sotomayor ruled for the producers of the 'Seinfeld' TV show in a 1997 case. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is seen here performing in April.

Judge Sotomayor's private-sector experience suggests she would bring a certain sympathy for protecting the rights of copyright and patent holders. As a young commercial lawyer, she helped LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA challenge knockoffs of luxury products, occasionally strapping on a bulletproof Kevlar vest to accompany police as they searched for counterfeit handbags and shoes.

Ah, sympathy: it's okay to have sympathy for business, but not empathy for people.

But her rulings as a judge have been more mixed, split between companies seeking to protect intellectual property and those looking for more freedom to use materials.

Judge Sotomayor appears to be the first Supreme Court nominee with significant experience in the area of so-called cyberlaw. By contrast, Justice David Souter, whom she would succeed, is famously low-tech. He writes his opinions in longhand, and his New Hampshire farmhouse lacks many electronic conveniences.

Does the term antediluvian ring a bell?

"She has what none of them [have] -- she's had an actual practice in intellectual property as a lawyer," said Patricia Millett, co-head of the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. "I think that'll be very informative to have that close-up perspective and familiarity with this area of law, [one that's] very important for them going forward."

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