On January 25, the Western District of Washington broke new ground with the first patent jury trial to be held virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. That case has now reached a verdict, with a jury issuing an infringement finding against Valve over the provision of its Steam Controller gaming peripheral and awarding $4M in damages to plaintiff Ironburg Inventions Limited. The conclusion of this closely watched trial marks the latest step in the Western District’s ongoing efforts to develop and refine remote trial procedures based on feedback from litigants and other stakeholders. However, as recently reported by RPX, those efforts run counter to the approach taken by Eastern District of Texas Chief Judge Rodney Gilstrap, who has vigorously opposed virtual trials on due process grounds.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many aspects of patent litigation online, but to date that has not included jury trials. Indeed, when Eastern District of Texas Judge Rodney Gilstrap paused all jury trials due to worsening infection rates in November, he explicitly rejected the possibility of holding such trials virtually, arguing that face-to-face interactions are essential to due process. However, the Western District of Washington now appears poised to test that proposition. On Monday, January 25, District Judge Thomas S. Zilly will launch the nation’s first patent jury trial to be held over Zoom, in litigation filed by Ironburg Inventions Limited against Valve.