The week ending February 18 had several major online legal news stories. From legal issues related to President Barack Obama's release of the 2012 budget to the court challenges facing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, there was much internet activity among law news hounds.

The week ending February 18 had several major online legal news stories. From legal issues related to President Barack Obama's release of the 2012 budget to the court challenges facing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, there was much internet activity among law news hounds.

Obama's $3.73 trillion budget will reportedly give a shot in the arm to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, thanks to the temporary surcharge for patent fees it issues. David Kappos, the director of the Patent Office, told Dow Jones Newswires that the office is facing a 708,535 patent application backlog from fiscal 2010.

The surcharge will reportedly give the Patent Office a 34 percent increase in its budget for the coming year and allow it to increase the speed and quality of the review process. The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog said that this development will likely affect trademark and patent lawyers. Online searchers have been interested in the budget as well, with searches for “Obama budget” peaking on Monday, February 14.

Last week Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down after weeks of protests from hundreds of thousands of residents of the country, with the military stepping into power. Following Mubarak's departure, the office of the prosecutor general has received a large number of legal complaints from a wide variety of people, according to the Wall Street Journal. Activists, citizens and civil rights groups allege Mubarak is guilty of corruption, among other charges. The news source reports that Prosecutor General Abdel-Majid Mahmoud has already taken action against certain former government officials. The media has been intently following Mubarak and related stories, with a Google News search for “Mubarak” returning more than 2,000 articles.

Back in the U.S., Bernie Madoff, the orchestrator of a massive Ponzi scheme, recently spoke to the New York Times, giving his first interview since 2008. One of the biggest revelations from the interview was Madoff's claim that certain banks and hedge funds were complicit in his schemes, which bilked investors out of billions of dollars.

“They had to know,” Madoff told the Times. “But the attitude was sort of, 'If you're doing something wrong, we don't want to know.'”

Online searchers were very interested in Madoff's interview, with searches for “Madoff” spiking on Wednesday, February 16.

Looking ahead to next week, one might expect legal news to pick up as the U.S. Supreme Court will return from its midwinter break on Tuesday. The New York Times reports that that the day will mark the fifth-year anniversary of the last time Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during a court argument, which is believed to be the longest such stretch of silence in the court's last 40 years.

That's the legal news for the week ending Friday, February 18.

Doug is Brafton's legal editor. He studied journalism in college and has worked for a number of media establishments.