Below is an excerpt from a recent decision in the case of Ideal Instruments, Inc. v. Rivard Instruments, Inc., a patent case from the Northern District of Iowa. [--- F.Supp.2d ----, 2007 WL 2296407 (N.D. Iowa, August 10, 2007)] In the future we’ll think it quaint that this deserved special mention in the court’s written opinion. But I’m sure clients will appreciate the cost savings. And imagine trying a federal case while telecommuting!
The court held the Markman hearing in this case on August 3, 2007. The Markman hearing in this case was the first instance in which this court has conducted a hearing using teleconferencing and “webcasts” of the parties’ presentations over the internet. The court and the parties found that this procedure was also extremely effective in both presenting the parties’ arguments and saving the parties substantial sums in attorney fees and travel costs.
Owing to the last minute notice by the plaintiff of a desire to present materials using PowerPoint via a webcast and some technical difficulties with working out the procedure to surrender “moderator” rights from one party to the other, the parties actually presented separate, simultaneous webcasts, one for the plaintiff’s presentation and one for the defendants’ presentation, instead of a single webcast. In fact, the parties used different webcast hosts in this case: one used Netspoke and the other used Webex. The court and the parties each logged in to both webcasts at the beginning of the conference call, then switched between them as the parties made their arguments. Although not as elegant a procedure as a single webcast would likely have been, the simultaneous webcasts procedure was very effective, eliminated the technical difficulties in the short time available, and proved quite workable. One “glitch” that occurred when the plaintiff “timed out” of the defendants’ webcast was quickly remedied by the plaintiff logging back in. The parties had also taken the precaution of providing the court and each other with copies of their presentation slides by e-mail prior to the hearing, so that even when the plaintiff temporarily lost the defendant’s webcast, the plaintiff was able to follow the defendant’s presentation by using the copy that the plaintiff had received. The court heartily recommends requiring such a backup procedure when using technology, whether new or tested and true, even though “Murphy’s Law” has not yet been codified into the United States Code.