Apr. 14, 2017
'Jacks' Asks 'Is it a Tax or Fee?'
Is it a tax or a fee? Adam Hofmann (Hanson Bridgett LLP) explains how the answer in Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara could dramatically impact California cities; Ben Davidson (Davidson Law Group) discusses why SCOTUS' decision rendering the laches defense unavailable in patent claims makes defendants unduly vulnerable
This week's show regards two high court cases, one pending in the California Supreme Court, and one recently filed out of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Adam Hofmann, a partner with Hanson Bridgett LLP, joins us first to talk about the state case, a battle between Santa Barbara citizens and the city over whether a certrain electric utility surcharge represents a tax, or rather a portion of the local power provider's franchise fee, which is then passed along to consumers. The distinction is critical, as under the California Constitution local taxes must be approved by citizens before they're imposed, which this charge was not. Mr. Hofmann, who filed an amicus brief in the matter, explains why the charge should be deemed part of the utility's franchise fee, and explains also why the outcome here will meaningfully impact California cities, especially those dependent on the revenue generated by franchise agreements.
Then, Ben Davidson, of the Davidson Law Group, will unpack a recent SCOTUS ruling that rendered laches unavailable for defendants in patent suits. In a not entirely unexpected move, one that follows a similar ruling in the copyright context from 2014, the Court, in an 8-1 decision, held that a limitations period in the relevant statute rendered laches practically unnecessary and, legally, inapplicable. Mr. Davidson, along with Justice Breyer, the Court's loner dissenter, disagrees, and Mr. Davidson says that the Court's ruling upsets over a century of patent jurisprudence unnecessarily, and unduly leaves patent defendants vulnerable to belated suits, that statutory limitations period notwithstanding.
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