Thursday, October 8, 2020

Experts call plexiglass shields used by Munich I Regional Court "absurd" and useless to protect against COVID-19, even if they were several times larger

Superspreader patent judges must be stopped from going ahead with trials the world doesn't need--unless, of course, you reduce the world to patent trolls (including failed businesses that resort to patent monetization because their products sucked) and the litigation industry. One such hotspot is Texas (meaning both the Eastern District and its new rival, the Western District's Wac[k]o division). Another is Germany, where most patent infringement complaints are filed in Dusseldorf, Mannheim, and Munich.

In Munich, there is an unfathomable discrepancy between the situation out in the streets--where people have to wear masks in large parts of the city center--and courtrooms at the Palace of Justice, some of which are crowded for the purpose of conducting the Munich I Regional Court's (Landgericht M√ľnchen I) patent trials.

At last month's Conversant v. Daimler trial, the presiding judge said right at the start that the sole reason people were required to wear masks was that he had knowledge of at least one person (I might have an idea whom he meant...) being present who insisted on that. What he did not take into consideration is that there are indeed party representatives and lawyers who attend those trials and very much want to protect their health. I know it from secret conversations. It's just that they don't dare to enforce their constitutional right because they fear judicial backlash.

As for German lawyers not daring to raise even much smaller issues, I can give you an example. I remember how in the first half of the last decade there were some patent trials up in room 501 of the Munich court's more modern building--the one with the glass fronts. Counsel for plaintiff had to sit very close to the windows, which intensified the sun rays, so the sun was basically scorching their backs--especially since German lawyers have to wear black robes. But do you think they would just ask for the shutters to be put down or something? One lawyer--lead counsel for Apple at the time--told me after a trial how much he suffered, but he chose to boil and perspire rather than say something. And in that case it wasn't even about requiring everyone to put on a mask.

In the U.S., where federal judges have more power than German regional court judges, there's the concept of professional and respectful equality--even at the appellate level. But in Germany, there's just a different--almost medieval--mentality.

COVID infection numbers are exploding again in Germany. There's definitely exponential growth, as Chancellor Merkel explained--and since she gave the last press conference on this, the number of infections reported on a given day has risen from about 2,500 to 4,000 (what a worrying trend).

When talking about the coronavirus problems in Munich, it's always important to distinguish between three different approaches:

  • The president of the court (i.e., chief judge) sets certain rules for the building. At first sight those are reasonable, but in practice they don't go far enough and aren't vigorously enforced.

  • Judge Dr. Matthias Zigann of the court's 7th Civil Chamber took perfect precautions when I attended his Sharp v. Daimler trial in July.

  • The 21st Civil Chamber unfortunately doesn't.

In two respects, things worked out better last month than in July: at least nobody brought in additional chairs to shorten the distance between people in the spectators' area. But there still were three issues:

  1. Party representatives and their lawyers were sitting relatively close to each other.

  2. During breaks, there were many conversations at a distance of maybe 3 or 4 ft., not the more appropriate 6 to 8 ft.

  3. As I noted in my report, ventilation appeared insufficient (because it got too noisy once they opened a window or door).

With respect to the first item, there's something that the Munich I Regional Court has put in place that would be ridiculous if the COVID crisis wasn't as serious as it is: miniature plexiglass panes.

An attendee of another trial joked in a private conversation that those plexiglass shields were at best sufficient to prevent two laptops from infecting each other.

To give you an idea, the plexiglass shields used at last night's vice presidential debate were easily five times larger than the ones they place on those tables in the Munich courtrooms. And, unlike those judges and lawyers in Munich, Vice President Pence and Senator Harris didn't circumvent them by sticking their heads together behind them to whisper.

There's plenty of media reports today about infectious disease experts having described even the large shields that were in place yesterday "absurd" and useless.

The New York Times quotes Boston University epidemiologist Ellie Murray as saying that "[t]hose glexiglass barriers are really only going to be effective if the vice president or Kamala Harris are spitting at each other." Other experts said very clearly that this is not how you prevent airborne transmission.

Harvard's Joseph Allen, a ventilation expert at the university's School of Public Health, expressed concern about "people [...] getting the message that this is what an effective set of controls looks like."

On Twitter I read that "[o]ne expert on airborne viruses laughed outright when the saw the setup" for the vice presidential debate.

Again, those shields were way larger, and people didn't engage in conversation behind them. They didn't wear masks when speaking, but that's not required in Munich unless I attend.

Whom is the Munich court trying to fool? They either take into account that people will die for a stupid patent troll trial or their science is from an alternative universe.

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