Jaguar, Bentley IP Trial Delayed Over Coronavirus Pandemic

By Daniel Siegal
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Law360 (April 9, 2020, 8:30 PM EDT) -- A Virginia federal judge agreed Thursday to take an October trial off the calendar in Jaguar Land Rover Ltd.'s suit accusing Bentley Motors Ltd. of infringing a vehicle control patent, saying the coronavirus pandemic is reason to push back the deadlines in the case.

In a two-page order, U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis granted the two automakers' request to receive months of additional time to complete a slew of actions, such as identifying their experts and filing pretrial disclosures. The judge also agreed to take the March 20 Markman hearing, June 24 settlement conference and Oct. 13 trial off the calendar for new dates yet to be decided.

Judge Davis wrote that the companies had "acted diligently and timely" in making the request and found that good cause exists to suspend the deadlines in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The companies had argued in support of their Tuesday motion that the crisis caused by the pandemic has made the current schedule untenable due to travel and other restrictions placed on the attorneys and experts involved in the case, who are based in locations under stay-at-home orders such as New York and Virginia.

In addition, multiple client representatives and witnesses for the automakers live in the U.K. and Europe, and thus are subject to the current travel ban related to the pandemic, according to the companies' brief.

Bentley also emphasized that its lead counsel has experienced especially severe hardships from the pandemic, "including the loss and hospitalization of members of lead counsel's law firm," making it hard for it to participate in case activities right now.

Bentley is represented by Wiley Rein LLP and by Haug Partners LLP, but it is not clear in the brief or in the case docket which firm is lead counsel. Attorneys from Wiley Rein and Haug, as well as representatives for the firms, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday and Thursday.

Jaguar's counsel declined to comment.

Jaguar launched the suit in June 2018, alleging Bentley's Bentayga SUV's "driver assistance" feature infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,349,776, a vehicle control patent that has since been reissued under U.S. Patent No. RE46,828. Jaguar said it uses the technology in its "terrain response" feature, which tweaks the car's braking, engine, transmission and other systems for off-roading.

The suit came two years after Bentley released the Bentayga, its first SUV.

The Bentayga has a driver assistance feature that can be equipped with various off-road settings, including "Dirt & Gravel," "Mud & Trail" and "Sand." Jaguar, which is based in the U.K., alleged Bentley copied the feature from the terrain response system in Jaguar's Range Rover.

The delay of the trial in the case came the same day that a Texas federal judge rebuffed a similar request from Roku to delay a patent infringement trial over media streaming technology. U.S. District Judge Alan D. Albright said in a standing order that it would be premature to reschedule the June 1 start date despite health and logistical concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The patent-at-issue is U.S. Patent No. RE46,828.

Jaguar is represented by Robert A. Angle, Laura Anne Kuykendall and Kathleen M. Knudsen of Troutman Sanders LLP and by Bert C. Reiser, Matthew Moore, Diane E. Ghrist, Will Orlady, Adam M. Greenfield, Clement J. Naples, Gabrielle LaHatte and Christopher Henry of Latham & Watkins LLP.

Bentley is represented by Attison L. Barnes III and Krystal B. Swendsboe of Wiley Rein LLP and Edgar H. Haug, Robert E. Colletti, Georg Reitboeck and Nicholas Giove of Haug Partners LLP.

The case is Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. v. Bentley Motors Ltd. et al., case number 18-cv-00320, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

-- Additional reporting by Jack Queen. Editing by Abbie Sarfo.

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