15 February 2011

Meaning and Corsets

From the Statement of Reasons by Raphael FM in Pun v Minister for Immigration & Anor [2011] FCMA 63 -
It is a constant source of wonder within the context of legal interpretation that howsoever many decisions there may be upon the way in which a standard document should be interpreted there is always room for more argument. One only needs to think of the volumes of law reports devoted to interpretation of the bankruptcy notice to understand that howsoever clear the legislature might have made its intentions and howsoever erudite may be the interpretation of those intentions by the highest courts in the lands, there always seems to be something more to be said. So it would appear with the code provided for the method by which a Minister gives documents to a person found in s.494B of the Migration Act 1958.
The decision in the Federal Magistrates Court concerned whether the Migration Review Tribunal had no jurisdiction to consider a review of a decision by a delegate of the Minister for Immigration & Citizenship because the application was out of time and whether by accepting the Department's offer to communicate by email the Department was restricted to that form of communication so that the sending of the decision letter by post did not constitute giving a document for purposes of s.494B Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

Kara Swanson in 'Getting a Grip on the Corset: A Feminist Analysis of Patent Law' (Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 47-2011) grapples with other meaning.

She comments that -
Over twenty years ago, Susan Brownmiller stressed the need to "get a grip on the corset" when considering femininity. In patent law, the "corset case," Egbert v. Lippmann (1881), is a canonical case explicating the public use doctrine. Using a historical exploration of the Egbert case, this paper seeks to "gets a grip" on the corset as part of the burgeoning project to consider the intersections of gender and intellectual property from a feminist perspective. The corset achieved the pinnacle of its use by American women during the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century. It was both the near-constant companion of the vast majority of women in the United States and a technological wonder. Like the more celebrated technologies of the era, such as the telephone, the telegraph, and the light bulb, the corset was the product of many inventors, making and patenting improvements, and fighting about their rights in court. As American women donned their corsets, they were enacting a daily intimate relationship with a heavily patent-protected technology. The corset during these decades was deeply embedded both within the social construction of gender and sexuality, as a marker of femininity and respectability, and within the United States patent system, as a commercial good in which many claimed intellectual property rights. Getting a grip on the corset, then, offers a way to simultaneously consider gender, sexuality, and patent law.

After a consideration of what it means to make a feminist analysis of patent law in Part I, in Part II I detail the history of the corset as an invention, using patent records, published opinions, and archival court records. Part III situates this little-known history against the existing historical understanding of the corset as an aspect of female fashion that reinforced gender roles and policed the boundary between public and private, and also uncovers the role of the corset in the courtroom as a witness to women's sexual activities. Part IV contains an archivally-based excavation of the much-cited and foundational Supreme Court decision, Egbert v. Lippmann, 104 U.S. 333 (1881), in which a patent to an improvement in corsetry was at stake. In Part V, I use the accumulated understandings of the corset as technology, garment and object of legal scrutiny to get a grip on the corset in patent law, making a feminist analysis of the public use doctrine as defined in Egbert.