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The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to grow wider as the novel coronavirus expands its reach in communities across these United States. Pending patent litigation is not exempt from this growing wave, as seen in orders issued from district courts across the country. In an effort to understand how courts are responding to Federal and State efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus and how those responses are impacting pending patent litigation, we have identified and summarized recent U.S. District Court orders resulting from or impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, below are recent orders in which district courts have issued rulings relating to scheduling and case management, discovery, patent specific hearings (e.g., claim construction, Daubert motions, and sanctions), mediation or settlement conferences, and trials.
The Cadwalader IP team will continue to monitor U.S. District Court orders relating to COVID-19 and will update this summary throughout as courts issue additional orders.
All across the country, district courts have had to modify scheduling orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Patent cases have been no different. Many of the these case management modification orders have been issued on a sua sponte basis, often based on broader general Court Orders that were issued district wide within a particular jurisdiction. Some reflect a wait-and-see approach by staying all litigation until further notice or by moving all deadlines a few months, while other jurisdictions have shown a desire to avoid significant delays, often through the use of remote-capable technologies such as telephonic and video conferences.
An increasing number of district courts have issued orders in patent cases exhibiting an effort to continue the progression of depositions while balancing the need to avoid in-person gatherings by attempting to complete whatever possible via videoconferencing.
Various district courts issued orders in patent cases regarding hearings that show an interest in moving forward but an understanding that some aspects of hearings related to claim construction, Daubert motions, and sanctions require in-person presentations that cannot be duplicated via conferencing technology. In addition to considering the interests of the parties, the interest of the public’s right to access all public in-court proceedings has also been considered when ordering that dial-information be made publicly available to access the hearing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably put a strain on the capability of district courts to move cases forward as planned. In the face of this reality, some district courts are encouraging attempts for mediation. However, in some instances, even scheduled in-person mediations were vacated to avoid the potential for exposure to COVID-19.
For those patent cases that were on the eve of trial, or at least relatively close, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely represent a delay—either of a defined or undefined length—as reflected by some of the orders issued in those matters.