Return of the Blizzard – Local Retail Economic Numbers

Today is a red-letter day for Marshall.  After a more than 20-year absence of Blizzards, we got a bright shiny new Dairy Queen this morning, and it’s right on the way to and from my office.  (That will eventually be a bad thing, but let’s not spoil the day).

It’s been a good year for retail in Marshall – we were excited earlier this year when we got a new Hobby Lobby and Jucy’s Taco, the reopened Ginocchio, and the return of Schlotzsky’s after a 15 year hiatus. But a DQ was always on local residents’ short list. There were two here when I was growing up, and we’ve missed nothing more.  We didn’t even care if it was all fancy like the ones popping up all over Tyler.  We just wanted our damn Blizzards.  It’s embarrassing to have to drive to Jefferson or Hallsville to get one.

That influx of new restaurants and other retail caused me to wonder if they were making a blip on the local economy, so I pulled the numbers for local retail sales tax revenue from the Comptroller’s office here.  As I learned in graduate school in public policy before I went to law school, and again when I was on the Marshall city commission some years back, local economic activity can be minutely tracked using sales tax revenues to determine empirically if some policy or other event is actually affecting the local economy.  (This is something legal reporters seem to not be aware of, so be patient with them).

For legal readers, this is limited to the city of Marshall, which is only a fraction of the Marshall Division jury pool, but it’s still useful to know what the amount of economic activity is in an area. You can also pull this data by SMSA, but since counties in Texas don’t collect sales tax it’s not available by county, and the relevant SMSAs cross division lines.  (Sorry – I’m falling into policy wonk mode here).

This graph is just the gross and taxable retail sales from 2002 through the second quarter of 2018, and it reflects the annual heartbeat of retail sales, with the bump in holiday spending each Q4, usually followed by a Q1 drop.

But it also reflects that I’m not imagining things – retail sales in the  second quarter of 2018 were not only higher than the previous Christmas quarter, which is exceedingly rare – they were the highest since the end of 2014 (beginning of 2015 for sales subject to the sales tax).

I’ve attached the downloaded data if anyone wants to look at this in more detail.


And, again, the state has an enormous amount of data on economic activity sliced different ways.  I just got curious about retail spending in the last two years because there sure seemed to more than usual lately. Turns out that there was.

Time to go get a Blizzard.

Ants & Rubber Tree Plants – Motions for Partial Summary Judgment of Noninfringement

My mother used to sing the song High Hopes – you know, the one about the ant trying to move the rubber tree plant?    Noninfringement summary judgment motions always remind me of that song because it’s often difficult to get those across the finish lines when the standard precludes granting the motion if there are genuine disputes of material fact. This order shows how parties on both sides address the all-important factual dispute question for these motions.

PLI Advanced Patent Litigation presentation – social media in jury selection

Had a great time yesterday with Suann Ingle presenting on the use of social media in jury selection as the snow began to fall in NYC.  I was the only person who seemed to enjoy it last night.

Which changed this morning when my flight back to Texas got cancelled, meaning I’ll spend my 22nd anniversary hanging out in LaGuardia, looking out the blue, blue skies – largely empty of airplanes.

But I have all my favorite toys with me, so it’s actually not a bad place to get work done.  And as we were planning to spend the weekend to Dallas anyway, I won’t even have to do the 2 1/2 hour extension to Marshall tonight.

Patent Lawyer Flash Mob

There was a priceless moment this morning at the ILT IP seminar in Plano.  The Dallas Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division was presenting a Jeopardy! Trivia game on IP trivia, but unlike the one I did last month, theirs was live and the different rows were competing against each other.

One of the questions asked a very technical question about a rule in IP, and no one got it precisely right.  The presenter put up the answer, which was lengthy and detailed, and the entire room of patent lawyers, seemingly as one, went into claim drafting mode and concluded that the answer was in fact correctly worded, and explained to its collective self why.

It then went on to the next question as if nothing had happened.

ILT IP Law Conference; PLI Advanced Patent Litigation Seminar; 22nd Anniversary

It’s one of those weeks when I use all of my packing pouches swapping out clothes as I go from city to city attending and presenting at IP seminars, and fortunately getting in a little family time as well.

I’m spending the first two days in Plano at the Institute for Law & Technology’s 56th Annual Conference on Intellectual Property Law.  I cochaired the conference the past two years so it’s a pleasure this year to sit back and enjoy what is one of the preeminent IP conferences in the country.  EDTX judges Rodney Gilstrap and Amos Mazzant will be joined by new WDTX-Waco Judge Alan Albright for the lunch judges panel later today, and I’m looking forward to that.

Then it’s off to New York to speak again this year at
PLI’s Advanced Patent Litigation course on ethical issues in jury selection, focusing on the challenges raised by social media with Suann Ingle.

The reward for a busy week is a couple of days back in Dallas with Jamie celebrating our 22nd anniversary Friday by playing foodie all weekend. As you can tell in the picture with our Baylor Bear from last year, she’s aged a bit better than me.

SDNY Patent Docket Control Order Adopts EDTX Rules

Thanks to Alan Ratliff for flagging this docket control order from the Southern District of New York from earlier this year which adopted (pursuant to the parties’ joint proposal) the Eastern District of Texas’ patent local rules for infringement and invalidity contentions and claim construction disclosures. The only fly in the ointment is that I wonder if the parties now know that P.R. 4-3 is being substantively amended effective December 1, six weeks before the relevant due date in the case?

A Streetcar Named ….

It often happens when walking with a visiting lawyer or client to or from the federal courthouse in Marshall that I get a funny look when we cross the bricked-up tracks on the north side of the old courthouse.  “Why are there train tracks in the middle of the square?” I’ll get asked.  I explain that those aren’t train tracks.  They’re from the old streetcars that used to run from the Marshall train station south the few blocks to the square. At the courthouse they split and from there went out half a dozen blocks or so to the neighborhoods east and west of downtown.
The problem is that until today I’ve never been able to find a decent photo of the trolley cars.  But here they are in a “History From Our Files” from the Marshall paper this morning, shown looking north from the steps of the then-new county courthouse shortly after 1900.
The “telephone” building on the right is now Telegraph Park, but was still there when I was little – my grandmother clipped poodles in it.  And the block of buildings on the left were razed in the mid-70s.  The reason I know that is that my mother took me out of school to watch them being torn down.  Why that was a “take Michael out of school to watch” event I never understood. But then, it was also a family event to watch concrete being poured back then – my initials are still in the sidewalk next to my office from when the concrete was patched in 1971 in front of my grandfather’s store, and he insisted she bring me out so I could put my initials in.
But immediately behind those buildings under the arrow is what was then the Marshall “opera house” which I’ve written on previously . “Opera house” was the term used in rural Texas for the places where visiting troupes of actors, singers, musicians and other entertainers played at stops up and down the railroad lines.  For example the Sherman “opera house” is now our firm’s offices in Sherman, as the above post notes.  It looks a bit different now, as shown at the dedication of the Sherman courthouse for Judge Brown a few years back.  Candidly, I preferred its original appearance, shown at right when it was a third floor and two towers taller.
But I digress.  Patent practitioners will recognize the building being pointed out as Pazzeria by Pietro – which was formerly the Blue Frog restaurant.