April 15, 2015

Live Testimony for Fact Witness Can Be Appropriate at IPR Oral Hearing

With the Patent Office considering changes to inter partes review practice to potentially increase the use of live testimony at oral hearings, it is worth reviewing the first case in which the Board allowed such live testimony.  In K-40 Electronics v. Escort, IPR2013-00203, the PTAB granted Patent Owner’s request to present live testimony from the inventor at the oral hearing. Paper 34 at 2. The Board noted its default position that live testimony is often not necessary, but under very limited circumstances, cross examination may be ordered to take place in the presence of an administrative patent judge. See Office Trial Practice Guide, 77 Fed. Reg. 48756, 48768 (Aug. 14, 2012). Paper 34 at 2.

Key to this case was Patent Owner’s attempts to antedate the only references relied upon by Petitioner. The Board found, therefore, that the testimony of the inventor was critical to the determination and the inventor’s credibility could be best judged live. Id. at 2. The Board also discussed that, because the inventor is a fact witness, this favors live testimony, versus a typical expert witness wherein credibility turns on the plausibility of their theories, and not their demeanor. Id. at 3. The Board continued by stating that should Petitioner suspect that the inventor is changing his testimony, he may be impeached with his prior testimony. Id. at 3.