The Federal Circuit Bar Association Comes Of Age

Saturday, July 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: Mr. Casey, would you tell our readers something about your professional experience?

Casey: Like many people in the intellectual property field, I began my career as an engineer. I have three technical degrees and worked as an engineer with General Electric for four years. Several GE in-house patent attorneys encouraged me to attend law school, and I decided to take that step. Following law school and a stint with a Chicago IP firm, I clerked for the Hon. Helen W. Nies on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit from 1987 to 1989. At that time the court was young, having been created in 1982, and the experience was fascinating. After my clerkship, I joined an IP boutique in the Philadelphia area and spent 15 years engaged in a variety of IP matters. I came to Stradley Ronon in 2004 as chair of its IP group.

Editor: How has your practice evolved over the course of your career?

Casey: The diversity offered by the IP field is one of its attractions. Early in my career, I prepared and prosecuted a great many patent and trademark applications. In recent years I have come to do more and more right-to-use opinions, licenses, and ADR work. ADR is expanding as the profession and the clientele it serves come to realize that ADR is often a better approach to resolving disputes than traditional litigation. Of course, I also handle an increasing volume of litigation and Federal Circuit appellate work.

My career has also evolved in the areas of teaching and professional association work. I have taught IP law at Temple University Beasley School of Law for 11 years, and am a past president of the Benjamin Franklin American Inn of Court. I also serve currently as vice president of the Philadelphia Intellectual Property Law Association and, as this interview notes, am involved with the Federal Circuit Bar Association. These activities seem to come with the territory, as one gets older, in a diverse practice such as mine.

Editor: Speaking of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, how did the court come into existence?

Casey: In the early 1970s, a national debate began concerning a court with specialized jurisdiction that would lend uniformity to rulings in certain areas in which results might differ depending on where the case was tried. That debate led to the creation of the Federal Circuit. The legislation signed into law by President Reagan combined the U.S. Court of Claims and the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and added several other areas of specific jurisdiction. The 12 judges - at the moment 11 judges and one vacancy - possess backgrounds that are commensurate with the court's varied jurisdiction. I hasten to add that this jurisdiction extends to a much wider area than the IP cases that many people associate with the court.

Editor: What is the jurisdiction of the court?

Casey: The jurisdiction is varied and includes appeals from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, where people bring actions against the federal government; the Board of Contract Appeals, which oversees government contract disputes; the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which deals with federal employment and employee benefits issues; the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; federal district courts concerning patent disputes; the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; and the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. International Trade Commission. Significantly, about 10 percent of the court's cases are in the patent area, but it spends about 40-50 percent of its time on those relatively complex cases.

Editor: How much of your practice is before the Federal Circuit?

Casey: My involvement with the court is fairly extensive. Each week I summarize the court's opinions in the IP area. This enables me to stay abreast of current developments and to advise clients accordingly. In my role with both PIPLA and the FCBA, I am involved with preparing and filing amicus briefs on an ongoing basis. We attempt to weigh in on the important cases before the Federal Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court, such as Ebay, Inc. v. Merchexchange, LLC, which concerns whether permanent injunctions in patent cases should be automatic or discretionary. A third area is where my own cases are appealed. And, finally, I may be called in at the appellate level where another firm has handled the trial and the expertise of appellate counsel or a "fresh look" is desired.

Editor: What are the hot issues before the court at the moment?

Casey: Patent claim interpretation remains a hot issue. Inequitable conduct - that is, fraud - before the Patent and Trademark Office is another. Typically, inequitable conduct occurs when an applicant for a patent has not provided the PTO with relevant information, of which the applicant has knowledge, to permit a proper evaluation of patentability. Another hot issue is transnational patent infringement. More generally, antitrust issues are being litigated in the pharmaceutical area based on agreements between brand name manufacturers and generic manufacturers.

Editor: You have also had something of a parallel career with the Federal Circuit Bar Association. For starters, what was it that attracted you to this particular professional association home?

Casey: When I left my clerkship at the court in 1989, membership in the FCBA was an excellent way to stay connected with the court. I was also aware of the quality of the Association's membership. Being part of that group was, and is, a real plus in one's career.

Editor: What is the FCBA's mission?

Casey: Because the Federal Circuit has a national jurisdiction, the FCBA is a national organization. We are there to serve the court, and our leadership is drawn from all areas of the country and all aspects of the court's jurisdiction. We are organized to bring together the different disciplines and practice groups that make up the legal community of the Federal Circuit. A tremendous amount of cross-pollination takes place across the membership.

Editor: As a bar association with a national, as opposed to a local membership, how does the FCBA connect to its members?

Casey: We try to act as a bridge to facilitate communication between our members, who practice before the court, and the administrators and judges of the court. We connect through our committees, which focus on the different areas of the court's jurisdiction. We participate in the court's advisory council. Our regional programs, in which the Federal Circuit judges often participate, permit our members to communicate not only with each other but with members of the court and on a one-to-one basis. Webcasts are becoming more common. Our highlight event is an annual three-day bench and bar conference which features both social and substantive events. We have tried to alternate this event between the East Coast and the West Coast every other year.

Editor: What are some of the key initiatives that the organization has supported over the years you have been involved?

Casey: One of the key initiatives concerns law school scholarships. These are available to students with financial need and demonstrated academic promise who look toward practicing in an area of the Federal Circuit's jurisdiction. That would include international trade or government contracts, for example, in addition to IP. One scholarship honors Federal Circuit Judge Giles S. Rich, one of the drafters of the 1952 Patent Act, and we provide others depending on available funds.

Working with the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, we also recommend candidates for vacancies on the court. With the current vacancy on the court, we are involved in that process right now. We also comment, through our amicus program, on the cases before the court. We have taken the initiative to do a history of the court and its judges.

There are two initiatives with which I am now involved as incoming President. One concerns immigration law that would give the Federal Circuit jurisdiction over all appeals involving immigration cases. Last year alone there were 12,000 cases, so it was important that we enter the debate. Another initiative involves celebrating the centennial of the Wright Brother's airplane patent, and we are planning some activities for next fall.

Editor: What are some of the services that the FCBA offers its members?

Casey: We provide several publications as services. The Federal Circuit Bar Journal is a quarterly publication that the FCBA puts out in conjunction with students of the George Mason School of Law. We also publish a bimonthly newsletter that advises our members of rule changes, practice area information, personnel changes on the court, hearing dates, and upcoming meetings. We also publish a monthly case digest in which practitioners in the different jurisdictional areas of the court summarize and comment on the court's decisions. Conference papers, from both our regional programs and the bench and bar event, are published. The most important source of information for our members, and anyone else for that matter, is our Web site: www.fedcirbar.org.

Editor: One thinks of bar associations as involved in pro bono activities. Are there pro bono opportunities that the organization offers its members?

Casey: Absolutely. We have a pro bono committee, and we offer our members ample opportunities for pro bono service. We encourage our members to serve the court in a pro bono capacity, and we have excellent participation, especially in two types of cases that fall under the court's jurisdiction: the Merit Systems Protection Board cases, which involve a federal employee who wishes to appeal a personnel action; and the U.S. Court of Veterans Claims cases, which concern veteran appeals on a variety of issues.

Editor: As you come into office, what are your priorities? What would you like to accomplish during your term of office?

Casey: We differ from other groups such as the state- and city-based bar associations or even other national organizations like the American Intellectual Property Law Association. We are a diverse group trying to serve a special court. With that in mind, I would like to highlight our unique situation as a bar association, all the while continuing the very high caliber of support we provide the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. If I can make a particular contribution it may be to highlight the role that the court plays in the legal community from an international perspective. With the help of both practitioners and members of the court, I am going to emphasize the international theme through our committee work, our webcasts, and our conferences and programs, culminating in our bench and bar conference which is scheduled for June 2007. I will also be in touch with people abroad who are in a position to help us place the court in its deserved international context.

Editor: Is there anything you would like to add?

Casey: I would encourage all of your readers who practice in the jurisdictional areas of the Federal Circuit to join us. International trade and intellectual property are increasingly important areas of the law and of our nation's economy, and they are increasingly intertwined. The Federal Circuit Bar Association is a forum that resides at the very center of this progression.