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IP Colloquium: Sapna Kumar (University of Houston)

September 12 @ 1:15 pm - 3:15 pm

On Thursday, September 12, we will host the second speaker in our IP Colloquium, Sapna Kumar (Houston). Professor Kumar’s talk is titled “Increasing Technical Expertise in Patent Litigation”.

In the United States, the judicial system relies upon legally specialized judges to promote uniformity and certainty. Judges who serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”), as well as some district courts, develop legal expertise from hearing a high volume of patent cases. However, although a few judges possess scientific backgrounds, technical expertise is generally lacking. This forces judges to heavily rely on party-hired experts, and may contribute to low-quality decisions. By contrast, several European patent courts utilize technically-qualified judges, who work side-by-side with legally-trained judges to decide patent cases. This Article examines the role of technical expertise in patent litigation, and discusses limitations on courts using independent or party-hired experts. It then looks at the use of technically-qualified judges in the German and Swiss federal patent court systems, as well as in the proposed Unified Patent Court, and discusses advantages and disadvantages to their use. The Article then considers how greater technical expertise could be integrated into the U.S. system, such as through the use of technically-trained magistrate judges.

Sapna Kumar’s Bio:

Professor Kumar is a Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Houston Law Center, where is also serves as the co-director for the Institute for Intellectual Property and Information Law. She is an expert in U.S. patent law and has written extensively about administrative and international law issues relating to patents. Professor Kumar is a 2018–2019 Fulbright-Schuman Innovation Grant recipient. Under the grant, she researched the use of technically-trained judges at the Center for International Intellectual Property Studies in Strasbourg and at the Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition in Munich.

Professor Kumar received her J.D. at the University of Chicago, where she served as a staff member of the University of Chicago Law Review. From 2003 to 2006, she practiced intellectual property litigation in Chicago at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and at Pattishall McAuliffe. She then spent two years at Duke University Law School, where she was a Faculty Fellow and part of the Center for Genome Ethics Law & Policy. After completing her fellowship, Professor Kumar clerked for the Honorable Judge Kenneth F. Ripple on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

The 2019 IP Colloquium is hosted by Professor Marshall Leaffer. This year’s theme is entitled Issues in International Intellectual Property Law. Two hours of Indiana CLE credit approved.


September 12
1:15 pm - 3:15 pm




Indiana University Maurer School of Law Room 216
211 S. Indiana Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405 United States
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