Friday, February 11, 2005

Law & Linguistics in Important Patent Case

"Hundreds of people flocked to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Tuesday to listen to arguments in a case that could affect how patents are interpreted. The Federal Circuit addressed in an en banc hearing whether courts should rely primarily on dictionaries to define the terms that describe the scope of an invention, or look to the description in the patent itself. Phillips v. AWH, 363 F.3d 1207, is one of the most pivotal patent issues to come before the Federal Circuit, generating more than 50 amicus curiae briefs."

ALL of the linguists I have read on the subject (which is quite a few - law & linguistics is one of my main areas of interest) think it is ridiculous, if not dangerous, for judges to rely on dictionaries in making decisions. It is not what dictionaries were intended for, and it shows a gross misunderstanding of the way language works.