CLBR #263: Joel Voelzke on Supreme Court IP Cases


Supreme Court Strikes Blow Against Patent Trolls

In 1990, only 1 patent lawsuit was filed in the Federal court for the Eastern District of Texas.  In the first quarter of 2017 it was 311 or 1/3rd of all patent infringement suits.  It was especially popular with Non-Practicing Entities, i.e., entities that hold patent assets but do not exploit them,  where their success rate was 48 percent (almost twice the national average).

The dominance of this court was skewered by John Oliver on “Last Week Tonight”.

In TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC,  (May 27, 2017), the court decided that venue is proper where the defendant: (1) is incorporated and, (2) where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular established place of business.

First Amendment Protects Disparaging TMs

Federal trademark law prohibits registrations that “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.”  The USPTO invoked this statute to deny a trademark sought by the dance rock band “The Slants” (and also to invalidate the Washington Redskins’ trademark).

In Matal v. TamSupreme Court found the disparagement clause violated the First Amendment.

We have said time and again that “the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.” Street v. New York, 394 U. S. 576, 592 (1969).

joel clbrJoel Voelzke

Joel is CLBR’s patent expert in residence and heads Voelkze IP Law in Malibu, California.

Prior to establishing his own office, Mr. Voelzke was a partner at Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly which was an international law firm at the time. Mr. Voelzke represents clients ranging in size from startup technology companies to Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Voelzke’s representative clients include: Hewlett-Packard Company; Avery Dennison Corporation; MGA Entertainment, Inc.; Magnecomp Corporation; VIS Racing Sports, Inc.;, Inc.; Menache LLC; Quiklite, Inc.; Electronics for Imaging, Inc.; New Dream Network, LLC; National R.V. Inc.; Country Coach LLC; and TechnoConcepts, Inc.

He has obtained numerous patents for clients in a wide range of disciplines including electronic circuit design and testing, image compression and decompression, magnetic disk drive head suspensions, communication systems, security systems, computer architecture, after market automobile styling products, office products, civil engineering, and solar cell fabrication. In addition to having obtained numerous patents and trademark registrations for his clients, Mr. Voelzke’s practice includes strategic intellectual property client counseling, opinions, licensing, and contracts. Mr. Voelzke is also an intellectual property litigator, having successfully represented clients in federal and state courts in patent, trademark, trade dress, domain name, trade secret, Internet, and other disputes. Mr. Voelzke has written a number of professional articles and has addressed bar association meetings and entrepreneurs’ conferences on various intellectual property topics.

Before attending law school Mr. Voelzke obtained his engineering degree from Harvey Mudd College, one of the premier engineering schools in the country. In his nine years of industry experience as an electrical engineer Mr. Voelzke designed analog and digital circuitry, and troubleshot circuits and systems for Litton Guidance and Control Systems, Singer Librascope, and Teledyne Systems Company. He has studied various advanced topics in electrical engineering at CSU Northridge and UCLA including computer design, digital signal processing, digital filtering, and adaptive signal processing.

Mr. Voelzke is admitted to practice in California, before the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Related Shows


The EFF’s Vera Ranieri Discusses Victory in the Podcast Patent Battle (Apr 29, 2015)

Joel Voelzke on The Supreme Court’s Latest Patent Rulings (Aug 20, 2014)

Daniel Nazer on Patent Trolls, Trampolines and the Shield Act (Mar 7, 2013)