A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


Entries for tag: covid-19

Chief Judge Stark on Friday scheduled the first post-COVID-19 jury trial that I've seen, in Guardant Health, Inc. v. Foundation Medicine, Inc., C.A. No. 17-1616-LPS-CJB, D.I. 487 (D. Del. Oct. 16, 2020). (The potential Judge Noreika trial I mentioned recently is not going forward).

The Court had offered the November 30 date late last month. The defendant objected to it due to a conflict. The defendant also argued that the jury pool will not be representative, lacking older jurors, and that holding a trial would go against CDC guidance.

The Court was not persuaded. It did, however, set the following restrictions:

  • No live witnesses: The Court accepted a proposal that since not all witnesses can testify …

Unsurprisingly, in light of COVID-19, recent signs indicate that the Court is all booked up for this year, and probably for a large part of next year.

Here, for example, is a Judge Stark order from yesterday:

ORAL ORDER: Having discussed with the parties on repeated occasions whether and when to schedule this patent infringement case for a jury trial (see, e.g., D.I. 474, 549, 583, 590, 591, 593, 596, 605, 607, 608, 610-15) and having found (unfortunately) no date that is reasonable and available to all parties and to the Court, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that trial in this matter is CONTINUED to a DATE TO BE DETERMINED, most likely in 2021 (and certainly NOT in 2020). IT …

Judge Stark recently adopted Judge Burke's recommendation that the Court deny a motion for summary judgment of no willful infringement, despite the defendant's objection that the key piece of authority underlying Judge Burke's decision issued after the summary judgment motion was filed. Judge Stark also pushed the November jury trial, but possibly by just a few weeks.

COVID-19
CDC / Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS

The Court emphasized that these are just guidelines, not law, and may still be objected to. Here are some highlights:

Jury Selection

  • Various screening measures and a mask requirement
  • Potential jurors will be split into groups of 25, with no more than two groups in the courthouse at a time

Deliberations

  • Deliberations (and breaks) will be in the adjacent courtroom, with windows papered over and microphones disabled, rather than the usual jury room
  • No mask requirement in the adjacent courtroom if jurors are 6 feet apart
  • Jurors will get a computer with exhibits and a projector; one juror will operate

Courtroom Procedures

  • All individuals generally wear masks
  • Counsel "speaking from a socially-distanced …

In M2M Solutions LLC, et al. v. Sierra Wireless Am. Inc., C.A. No. 14-1102-RGA (D. Del.), the parties submitted a joint letter last week asking Judge Andrews to delay their December 2020 PTC and January 2021 jury trial until "spring 2021" due to COVID-19.

Judge Andrews quickly declined, via an oral order issued on the same day:

[T]he Court is not now inclined to continue the trial to spring 2021. Circumstances could change for the better; travel restrictions could be lifted. And the pretrial conference, at least, can be done remotely. The parties may submit a letter after Thanksgiving revisiting the issue in light of then−existing circumstances.

It's interesting that the Court is now regularly offering public access information for remote hearings. I can't recall it doing that before the coronavirus.

The only pre-coronavirus remote hearings I can think of were for scheduling and discovery dispute conferences, where public access is not usually a concern. Scheduling conferences often took place privately in chambers even when they were in-person, and discovery dispute conferences often involve confidential information anyway. It looks like they judges are still handling these how they always have.

These days, however, the Court regularly holds all kinds of other, more substantive hearings remotely, and most of the judges have been taking steps to allow the public to attend. Here is what the judges have been …