Does this remind you of anything?
The settlement agreement was reached Monday night. The lawyers sent a letter to the court at 12:23 a.m. Tuesday announcing a settlement. But in the morning, [Judge] Alsup was less than thrilled with the parties’ stipulation as part of the agreement that the court had held the trademark valid.
Growing stern, Alsup told the lawyers, “I will not let you walk out of this courthouse” with a settlement stating that “a judgment was entered” in favor of Autodesk’s mark. Stern and Jacobs scrambled out of the courtroom, and after back-and-forths between clients and lawyers alike, came back with a new agreement. The final draft said that the parties agreed that DWG is a valid trademark (pdf), but emphasized twice that the court did not rule on the issue. The terms of the settlement were confidential aside from the brief stipulation.
Alsup is “being a good guardian of the law in not wanting to be a party to something that may be used beyond an agreement or concessions between parties,” said Neil Smith, an IP lawyer with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton who was not involved in the case. He said Alsup was wise to head off the danger of the settlement being “waved around as a finding of validity.”
What this reminded me of was the revised (and original) Google Books Settlement, where two parties — Google and the Authors Guild — are trying to reach agreement in a self-generated dispute that undermines copyright law. Not surprisingly, this settlement advantages both parties, while disadvantaging every copyright holder.
My hope, at a minimum, is that the judge overseeing the Google case will prohibit both parties from making claims about their compliance with copyright law if their settlement is approved. Ideally, however, the judge will void the settlement as being against existing law, just as a judge would void my legal agreement with you that we can break into a third person’s house and steal their furniture.
— Mark Barrett