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Conference report: Judge Denny Chin, the Jeremy Lin of law

Judge Denny Chin wanted attendees of the Fordham IP China Conference to know two things: First, he is not an IP expert. Second, he is not a China expert

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge said he was told by conference organisers to talk about three things: the languishing Google Books litigation he has presided over since 2005, cloud computing and his recent trip to China.

Of the Google Books case, Chin said simply: “It does not seem those negotiations have gone anywhere.”

On the second point, Chin said he was recently introduced to the cloud with the purchase of his first iPhone. This underscored an important reality for IP practitioners – many US judges, he said, are not familiar with the technology being litigated.

“I’m not on Facebook,” Chin said. “In the Second Circuit, we still use fax machines,” he added.

This prompted Federal Circuit chief judge Randall Rader, a fellow panellist sitting next to him, to say: “You’re embarrassing me.”

But he noted that this is nothing new. Judges and courts have adapted to technology since before the cloud, citing the VCR, cable television and the remote DVR as examples.

“As technology changes and new copyright issues arise, the courts have to deal with them,” he said.

Though Chin was born in Hong Kong, he immigrated to the US soon after. Until recently, he hadn’t returned: “For whatever reason, I never made it back to Asia.”

On this visit with a delegation from Fordham Law School, he was impressed by the questions Chinese university students asked him. The first question concerned the Daubert decision and the use of survey evidence.

The Chinese press called him the Jeremy Lin of the federal judiciary, a tribute to the Taiwanese-American professional basketball player who led the beleaguered Knicks on a winning streak in February.

“I’m a lifelong Knicks fan,” he said, eliciting laughter. “Jeremy Lin is an important development for us long-suffering Knicks fans.”

Overall, Chin said the trip reminded him that “you can’t oversimplify what’s happening in China”. Like the US, China is having the same struggles in finding the balance between the rights of copyright holders and the rights of the users.

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