A Patent Lie, Paul Goldstein

Anchor Books, 2008
Review by Scott Sherman

Intellectual property law professor at Stanford, Paul Goldstein, wrote his first novel in 2006, Errors and Omissions. In 2008, the sequel was published.

Michael Seeley, who has met the patent attorney requirements, passed the bar, and is living in seclusion in New York, has been urged by his brother to take a new case involving a AIDS drug. This thriller takes you inside the world of patent law as a small pharmaceutical company battles a giant.

Michael is a lone-attorney taking nickel and dime cases. His estranged brother, Leonard, is in a small biotech company on the other side of the country in California. After not speaking to each other in 9 years, Leonard comes to Buffalo to pay Michael a visit.

Leonard works for the company Vaxtek in San Francisco. Vaxtek has filed a patent infringement case against the giant pharmaceutical company, St. Gall. With the trial set to start in under a month, the lead attorney for Vaxtek is dead after what seems to be a suicide attempt.

With Michael battling alcoholism, the high profile and stressful case is not interesting. In addition, Micheal does trust his brother who never stopped manipulating people to get his way. Seeing Leonard reminds him of their childhood with their abusive father. At 15 years old, Michael finally confronts his father and leaves home. Rekindling any feelings towards his family risks his sobriety, but against his better judgment, Michael goes to California.

Joel Warshaw is the owner of Vaxtek, and an entrepreneur who buys and sells companies for profit. Shortly after meeting him, Michael gets the feeling that Joel has no morals and only cares about the money, believing he will stop at nothing to get rich. Furthermore, he believe the lawyers and administrators for both companies are concealing some part of the truth. Michael must decide whether to stand up for what is right, or go up against powerful men and risk his career and livelihood.

However, the results were less than exciting. The story line was confusing. It seemed to drag on in parts and then be rushed in others. It never found a rhythm that was both easy to follow yet entertaining. The characters’ motivations were also questionable. The only clear theme was corporate greed.

As far as legal thrillers are concern, this falls shorts of a John Grisham or Michael Connelly. Still, it’s a decent read, but one that is unlikely to become your favorite.

The book, which was positively reviewed by NPR, seems to have been given more credit than it deserves. It’s in a category with few authors and not many choices, so it seems that the rarity of it translated into it being received in a more positive light than what it really deserves.

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