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Apple Fails to Delay Texas Patent Trial Based on Covid-19

July 22, 2020, 1:58 PM

The Covid-19 pandemic doesn’t justify postponing a Texas patent infringement trial against Apple Inc. because the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has taken sufficient steps to limit health risks, Judge Rodney Gilstrap said.

The court also said Tuesday that it wouldn’t delay jury selection to October because there was no evidence that the public health situation would be better then, and that the delay would prejudice Apple and plaintiffs Optis Wireless Technology LLC, Panoptis Patent Management, and Unwired Planet LLC.

“As Robert Frost admonished in A Servant to Servants, ‘the best way out is always through,’” Gilstrap said.

The companies sued Apple last February for allegedly infringing seven standard essential patents related to LTE wireless technology. They said Apple has refused to agree to a license on fair and reasonable terms.

Jury selection for the trial in Marshall, Texas, is set for Aug. 3. Apple requested a move to Oct. 5, arguing it “would be in the best interests of the health and safety of trial participants and the local community, as well as the parties’ abilities to present a full and fair case.”

But the court said it has “diligently undertaken” reasonable precautions to “facilitate a full and fair trial, while maintaining the health and safety of those involved.” It noted measures it has taken to maintain social distancing, sanitize the courthouse daily, prevent those who are sick or exposed to the virus from entering the courthouse, and mandate that attorneys and jurors wear face shields during trial.

And “the unpredictability of the state of the pandemic in the future means that a continuance now will result in a delay of many months or even years,” the court said. A long delay would put “both sides in a posture of limbo where they would languish unduly without the vindication of a public trial or a final resolution,” Gilstrap said.

Apple also expressed concerns about three witnesses based in Europe who wouldn’t be able to testify at an in-person trial. The court allowed Apple to present live video testimony from them instead.

Irell & Manella LLP, McKool Smith PC, and Gray Reed & McGraw LLP represent the plaintiffs. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP, Walker Stevens Cannom LLP, and Gilliam & Smith LLP represent Apple.

The case is Optis Wireless Tech. LLC v. Apple Inc., E.D. Tex., No. 2:19-cv-00066, 7/21/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Blake Brittain in Washington at bbrittain@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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