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Arguments in Highmark and Octane Fitness, and Other Drama

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on March 05, 2014 2:56 PM

Last week the Supreme Court heard arguments in a duo of cases regarding attorney fees in patent cases, and the meaning of the Patent Act's Section 285 language that allows a "court in exceptional cases may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party." The arguments were concluded before the two-hours allotted for argument, and the most exciting news from the Supreme Court was unrelated to attorney fees, notes SCOTUSblog.

Oral Argument Highlights

A few days before the scheduled argument, the Court reversed the order of the oral arguments, deciding to hear Octane Fitness v. Icon Health & Fitness first, followed by Highmark Inc. v. Allcare Health Management Systems, Inc. That makes sense considering the issue in Octane Fitness has to do with the standard used to determine the award of attorney fees to a prevailing party, and the issue in Highmark relates to the standard of review an award of attorney fees is subjected to on appeal.

After arguments, it seems only one thing is clear -- "the Justices are unlikely to resolve either case without disagreement," according to SCOTUSblog. During the Octane Fitness arguments, the Justices (and appellate attorneys) had a hard time grappling with what the legal standard should be -- objectively baseless? Meritless? Unreasonably weak?

The arguments in Highmark were just as unclear, with SCOTUSblog noting, "none of the Justices seemed willing to agree with anything either side had to say." We're not sure how the Court will decide these issues, but we'll be expecting a decision by early summer.

Order in the Court!

It's not every day that you have drama coming out of the Supreme Court but that's exactly what happened during the oral arguments in Octane Fitness and Highmark -- except the drama had nothing to do with attorney fees. Instead, Noah Kai Newkirk "delivered a 'harangue or oration' in violation" of 40 U.S.C. § 6134, for which he later pleaded not guilty, reports The Wall Street Journal.

What was the 'harangue or oration' in question, you ask? Apparently, like many others, Newkirk is dissatisfied with the Court's Citizen's United opinion and stated: "Corporations are not people, money is not speech. Overturn Citizens United!"

We'll keep you posted on how his trial commences.

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