Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Supreme Court Holds The Mets Have No Chance To Win World Series

In a decision involving copyright infringement of a brand-name drug by a generic manufacturer, Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a unanimous Court in Caraco Pharm. Labs. Ltd. v. Novo Nordisk, felt compelled to take a gratuitous shot at the New York Mets (Kagan is reportedly a Mets fan). 

The nasty blow came during a discussion of the meaning of "not an" as in "the patent does not claim an approved method of using the drug."
Truth be told, the answer to the general question “What does ‘not an' mean?” is “It depends”: The meaning of the phrase turns on its context . .. .  “Not an” sometimes means “not any,” in the way Novo claims. If your spouse tells you he is late because he “did not take a cab,” you will infer that he took no cab at all (but took the bus instead). If your child admits that she “did not read a book all summer,” you will surmise that she did not read any book (but went to the movies a lot). And if a sports-fan friend bemoans that “the New York Mets do not have a chance of winning the World Series,” you will gather that the team has no chance whatsoever (because they have no hitting). But now stop a moment. Suppose your spouse tells you that he got lost because he “did not make a turn.” You would understand that he failed to make a particular turn, not that he drove from the outset in a straight line. Suppose your child explains her mediocre grade on a college exam by saying that she “did not read an assigned text.” You would infer that she failed to read a specific book, not that she read nothing at all on the syllabus. And suppose a lawyer friend laments that in her last trial, she “did not prove an element of the offense.” You would grasp that she is speaking not of all the elements, but of a particular one. The examples could go on and on, but the point is simple enough: When it comes to the meaning of “not an,” context matters.
This is so disheartening.  With so little that the Court agrees on these days, they had to be unanimous about the Mets' World Series chances?


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