|Judge Ronald Whyte|
Several Judges from the San Jose federal courthouse rushed over to the Tech Museum on Friday afternoon for an impromptu homage to their colleague Ron Whyte. Whyte, 66, is going to senior status in March, and the organizers of a patent law symposium (Shifting Strategies in Patent Law, put on by Santa Clara University Law School) at the museum yielded the floor during lunch time to honor the veteran jurist.
We recap of the heartfelt, humorous — and surprisingly musical — tributes after the jump:
Vaughn Walker: The chief judge in the Northern District recalled how Whyte changed everyone’s bad attitude about patent cases — now a mainstay for local lawyers and judges. “Patent cases were regarded like halitosis and hemorrhoids,” Walker said. “They smelled bad and they itched where you couldn’t scratch ‘em.” Whyte studied up on patent law in the 1990s and later spearheaded the patent local rules project to streamline the difficult cases. Patent local rules are or course now popular all over the country. “Patent litigation in the Northern District of California is very different than the way it was handled two decades ago and much of the credit belongs to Ron Whyte,” Walker said. Walker ended by cribbing lyrics from the great country singer Charlie Daniels: “Let there be harmony, let there be fun with patent local rules we’ll get the job done!”
Judge Jim Ware: Not to be outdone or out-sung by Judge Walker, Ware reminisced about the fondness for karaoke that he and Whyte share. And with that, Ware launched into a rendition of “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Us, Ron Whyte,” recusing the Lucille from the Kenny Rogers original, and replacing verses with comments on patent litigation and case loads and so forth. We’re working as we speak to get a video because you really have to hear Judge Ware sing — he’s a got a sonorous bass voice not be missed.
Ed Reines: The patent litigator who helped organize the honoring of Whyte, spoke about how every lawyer could say with certainty that they always felt fairly treated in Whyte’s courtroom. He presented Whyte with a teal San Jose Sharks’ sweatshirt. Whyte smiled broadly. According to sources close to the nexus of the San Jose federal bench and the San Jose hockey team, Whyte is a “huge” fan.
Judge Randy Rader: The Federal Circuit judge was in town to speak at the patent law conference, but he also had a few funny stories about Whyte. One time, the two judges were traveling in some far-off land, which he couldn’t recall. Having walked a long way, they wanted to get their shoes shined. A young shoe-shiner quoted them a price and Whyte was ready pay, but Rader was ready to bargain. The federal circuit judge got to a price he liked and they struck a deal. But the shoe-shiner had the ace up his sleeve, saying “that was the price for one shoe” when it came time to pay. In a reversal of roles, Rader appealed to Whyte, who simply said: “It was your burden to set the terms of the contract.” Whyte wanted to be a federal circuit judge and was passed over to the outrage of local practitioners and judges. To close, Rader said: The greatest patent judge in the world is right there: Ron Whyte.”
A number of other judges were there, including Jeremy Fogel and Richard Seeborg.
Whyte, a smart, hardworking guy who lacks the air of self-importance that many judges exude, gave a few remarks, choking up at one point. He thanked his clerks and asked them to stand up — the head of IP at Cisco, Mallun Yen, was one. He commented how he’d taken a patent law class at Santa Clara to get up to the speed back in the day and confessed that while his attendance was perfect, he skipped out on the final exam. After the ceremony, Whyte had to hustled back to the courthouse — about three blocks away — to preside in the never-ending Rambus trial.
— Zusha Elinson