The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

In a ruling handed down Monday morning, the Supreme Court cited one of the great sources of moral authority in America: The original Spider-Man comics, created in the early 1960s by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

The case, Kimble v. Marvel Entertainment, involved a dispute over patent royalties, in which Marvel Entertainment had invoked a 1964 case to declare that it no longer had an obligation to pay royalties to Stephen Kimble, the inventor of a toy imitating Spider-Man’s web shooters, once the patent itself had legally expired. (Marvel had previously bought the patent from Kimble, as part of a settlement from an infringement lawsuit he had filed in 1997.)

Thus, Kimble needed the Supreme Court to overturn that 1964 decision, which they declined to do for him — saying instead that Congress is the proper venue to change the patent law in this manner.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion, in which she was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. The decision was based on the principle of stare decisis — which states that the court should respect past decisions in the absence of deeply serious and compelling reasons to overturn them:

What we can decide, we can undecide. But stare decisis teaches that we should exercise that authority sparingly. Cf. S. Lee and S. Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: “SpiderMan,” p. 13 (1962) (“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility”). Finding many reasons for staying the stare decisis course and no “special justification” for departing from it, we decline Kimble’s invitation to overrule Brulotte.

For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

It is so ordered.

Kagan also wrote earlier in the opinion, on the key issue of patent law itself: “Patents endow their holders with certain superpowers, but only for a limited time.”


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Colbert Mocks Trump's Bad Toilet habits

Image via YouTube

The political world was rocked by the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago residence, perhaps prompted by reports that he had flushed classified intelligence documents down the toilet. Not surprisingly, Late Show host Stephen Colbert found this image laughable if alarming. (Over the weekend, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman had revealed photos from a White House source revealing scraps of paper at the bottom of a toilet bowl.)

“To be fair, it’s unclear if those are official White House documents or his toilet’s suicide note,” Colbert noted, although the papers did appear to have Trump’s Sharpie handwriting, as well as the name “Stefanik” written on them -- as in Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

Keep reading... Show less

Mehmet Oz

Youtube Screenshot

Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for Senate in Pennsylvania, gave a confusing response about veterans' health care during an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station last week.

The station 90.5 WESA asked Oz about the PACT Act, which expands health care coverage for veterans exposed to toxins in the course of their service. The interview took place a few hours before recalcitrant Senate Republicans finally agreed to support the legislation.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ }}