The District Court issued several new general orders over the past several days. On Thursday, the Court announced that the Springfield courthouse that had been closed to the public reopened on March 27th. The employee of the clerk’s office who had reported symptoms consistent with the disease tested negative for COVID, and the courthouse was given a thorough cleaning, making it safe to resume operations. Public counter hours for the clerks’ offices in each Federal courthouse were set to run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to permit the limited staff to complete needed administrative business. The Court adjusted criminal procedures to allow for electronic filings of various documents previously accepted only in paper format and to allow for video and telephonic conferencing instead of in-person appearances for various criminal proceedings, pleas and sentencing.
Perhaps more relevant to the IP world, all jury trials in the District that were scheduled to begin on or before May 29th have been continued indefinitely, with the continuance of any trial-specific deadlines to be determined by the individual judges. This applies to both criminal and civil trials. Grand jury proceedings are also continued until at least May 29th, although grand jury proceedings may be scheduled for emergency or essential matters.
After an employee of the clerk’s office at the Springfield courthouse reported symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts closed the Springfield court facilities pending further order from the Court. The clerk has been directed to try to maintain continuity of operations, to the extent it is reasonable and safe to do so, which likely means court activities will take place by telephone or video conference, if at all.
The District of Massachusetts issues several new general orders relating to the Coronavirus situation, continuing grand jury proceedings, mediations and Central Violations Bureau Sessions (dealing with tickets issued on federal property) are continued until at least April 27th, continued most criminal proceedings for 60 days, and suspended naturalization ceremonies for March and April. While not specifically related to intellectual property litigation, this demonstrates the degree to which the situation is affecting the day to day business of the court. The situation remains fluid, and further changes are expected.
Florida corporation ViaTech brought suit against Adobe in May, 2019, accusing Adobe of infringing its U.S. Patent No. 6,920,567, entitled “System and Embedded License Control Mechanism for the Creation and Distribution of Digital Content Files and Enforcement of Licensed Use of Digital Content Files.” Venue was based on Adobe having offices in Massachusetts (despite having a principal place of business in California), as well as having allegedly infringed the patent in Massachusetts, both through its Massachusetts offices and through its on-line store. ViaTech itself was originally a Massachusetts corporation, ViaTech Inc., which merged into ViaTech Technologies in 2000. The three inventors on the ‘567 patent all reside in Massachusetts, although ViaTech has no Massachusetts employees. Adobe moved to dismiss the complaint, while also moving to transfer, and agreed to delay a decision on the dismissal pending the outcome of the transfer motion.
ViaTech’s authority to transact business in Massachusetts was revoked in 2012, for failure to file annual reports. On May 20, 2019, ViaTech filed annual reports for 2009 through 2018, seeking reinstatement, and four days later ViaTech filed suit against Adobe before reinstatement was granted. Judge Burroughs granted Adobe’s motion to transfer venue, but transferred to Adobe’s alternative selection, Delaware, rather than Northern California where Adobe is headquartered. She first noted that venue disputes in patent cases are governed by the law of the regional circuit rather than the Federal Circuit. She noted that Massachusetts was not ViaTech’s principal place of business and that vViaTech lacked ability to do business in the Commonwealth when the case was filed. The presumption in favor of ViaTech’s choice of forum was further diminished by the fact that ViaTech had twice brought suit on the same patent in the District of Delaware. This last fact also weighed against the convenience of ViaTech in litigating in Massachusetts, as it demonstrated ViaTech’s ability and willingness to do so in Delaware. Because both parties are incorporated in Delaware, Judge Burroughs determined that it was a more appropriate venue.
In keeping with many federal courts, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts today set forth courthouse access restrictions in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak. General Order 20-1 restricts courthouse access to those who have travelled to a country with a CDC level 2 or 3 travel advisory (presently China, Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea) as well as to those who have had contact with such travelers and/or those displaying Coronavirus symptoms. They ask that affected parties scheduled to appear contact their attorneys, that attorneys impacted by the order contact the session before which they are to appear, and that impacted jurors contact the Jury Department at 617-748-9082.
The Court further announced that, while the Massachusetts federal courts would remain open, all jury trials scheduled to begin before April 27th would be put on hold until further order of the Court, with that date subject to further extension as the situation warrants. Hearings, conferences and bench trials are to proceed at the discretion of the individual judges, who are strongly encouraged to conduct court proceedings by telephone or video conferencing where practicable.
Stay safe everyone!
Last week, I referenced that my firm, Lando & Anastasi, was moving to new offices at 60 State Street in Boston, and I lamented losing my Charles River view. I think the new view does offer some solace!
After 15 years with my firm in Cambridge (and 17 years of the firm itself being in Cambridge), Lando & Anastasi is moving downtown – specifically, to 60 State Street in Boston. Kendall Square has grown considerably since my first day in May 2005, growing from a largely vacant area of one-story warehouse space and only a couple of places to grab lunch to a bustling center of commerce. While we will miss the old neighborhood (and I will miss my view of the Charles River),
we are all very excited to move to the heart of Boston. Our new office, located on the 23rd floor of 60 State Street, will foster the collaborative culture in which we all thrive. We look forward to providing our clients the same dedicated service from our new location, just steps from Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall. First day in the new place is Monday!