Monday, March 1, 2021

Epic Games v. Apple trial scheduled to start on May 3: exact duration and in-person vs. video testimony to be determined

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California said at the outset of today's Epic Games v. Apple case management conference that this is a very significant case, so the judiciary should give it the best it has to offer, which is an in-person trial. But under the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be necessary to conduct the trial, in whole or in part, via Zoom. Even if it's fully in-person, the number of persons simultaneously present in the courtroom will be very limited.

The judge won't take it lightly if someone who's a "COVID denier" on Facebook or goes on extensive travel for other purposes asks to be excused from showing up in person for the trial. She expects counsel for the parties to "investigate" the witnesses in that regard.

For now the plan is that witnesses won't have to wear masks when testifying. Judge Gonzalez Rogers mentioned that the court has plexiglass shields. Actually, experts doubt or even ridicule the effectiveness of such shields as I reported last summer. But Judge Gonzalez Rogers explained she would be closer to the witnesses than anyone else, and by May she'd be "fully vaccinated." While I remain skeptical of plexiglass shields, I don't doubt at all that this judge is very committed to preventing COVID infections in the courtroom. She is in contact with Judge Albright in the Western District of Texas, who is holding patent trials all the time despite the pandemic.

The trial will start on May 3, 2021. This appears to be a pretty definitive plan, though the judge also noted one would have to keep looking at "the [infection] numbers." The exact length of the trial depends on the number of trial exhibits etc. the parties plan to present. Based on the potential durations the judge tossed out, it sounded like the length of the trial will most likely be somewhere between three and five weeks. At some point she said she'd give three weeks, but that was apparently just a hypothetical example.

Today's case management conference was audio-livestreamed via the court's YouTube channel, with only about 25 concurrent listeners when I checked. A YouTube audio stream will apparently also be the basis on which the general public will be able to follow the May trial.

Epic Games v. Apple will be a bench trial (i.e., no jury), while some other App Store antitrust cases against Apple will be put before juries a few months later.

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