Many of us chuckled at the viral video of a Texan lawyer who appeared at a remote court hearing as a cat. This unfortunate filter mishap does, however, act as a warning to all lawyers to check their settings before attending remote hearings as it looks like they are here to stay.
Over the last 12 months, the use of virtual court hearings has sky-rocketed (perhaps unsurprisingly) in the wake of the COVID pandemic. As the courts have been forced to close their doors, they have instead opened their laptops and sought to make widespread use of video conferencing software to ensure that most cases can progress remotely. In fact, not just interim hearings but even entire trials, such as the one in Fisher & Paykel Healthcare v Flexicare, have taken place over Skype, Teams or Cloud Video Platform.
Prior to lockdown remote hearings were rarely used, at least in the intellectual property courts. However, there are clearly benefits to their use. Most intellectual property claims are heard at the Rolls Building in London. For those not based in the capital this can involve a lengthy amount of travel time, not just for the lawyers but for clients as well. In addition, there can be a considerable amount of waiting time at court before what can ultimately be a short interim hearing. The problem becomes even more acute when there are several parties and their legal teams. It can often mean that a client’s entire day is taken up when the hearing itself may only last for a couple of hours.
Once you have got to grips with the technology (and managed not to turn yourself into a cat on screen) virtual hearings overcome a number of these issues resulting in considerable savings for clients in terms of time, legal fees and expenses. It looks as though remote hearings will be something of a fixture in court procedure. Indeed, Mr Justice Birss (as he then was) recently indicated to the MIP IP Strategy Summit that he expects remote hearings to play a far bigger role than they have done in the past.
While virtual hearings can provide some cost savings particularly on travel and waiting time, any litigation can still come at significant cost for the parties even where virtual hearings are used. Where clients do find themselves in the midst of IP litigation, whether they are enforcing or defending, we offer an innovate IP litigation product, IP Fixed™, that can assist in giving greater costs certainty.
IP Fixed™ enables us to fix the costs of IP litigation at each stage of an IP case, or even all the way to trial, so our clients can budget accordingly. For more information see here.