Law360 (April 28, 2020, 11:06 PM EDT) -- A Virginia federal judge is moving forward with a bench trial using Zoom next month on a cybersecurity company's claims that Cisco infringed several of its network technology patents, dismissing both Cisco's concerns that the case is too complex to be tried by video and the company's request to use its own Webex platform.
In a three-page order issued on April 23, U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. denied Cisco's motion opposing a trial by videoconference in the dispute over five patents filed by Centripetal Networks Inc.
Judge Morgan wrote that it's important to proceed with the bench trial, which is slated to start May 6 and expected to last around three weeks, despite the coronavirus pandemic, and that Zoom presents the best way to do so.
"The protection of intellectual property is of paramount concern and the court seeks to resolve the matter with a sense of urgency," Judge Morgan wrote.
Judge Morgan rejected Cisco's argument that holding the trial on Zoom could expose its confidential material to the public, noting that a trial in a courtroom would itself be open to the public. The judge also rejected Cisco's argument that using its own Webex software would be safer, noting that using the company's own program could open it up to prejudicial accusations if the technology fails during the trial.
As for Cisco's concern about being able to effectively cross-examine witnesses by video, Judge Morgan wrote that because the parties are required to disclose their trial exhibits in advance, they will know what evidence is coming.
Cisco spokesperson Robyn Blum said via email that videoconferencing is an effective and efficient tool for judicial proceedings, including trials, but the company was concerned about the complexities of the case.
"In addition ... our primary concern is the protection of confidential information in this medium and believe that Cisco's Webex technology is a much better platform for that purpose," Blum said. "We, however, appreciate Judge Morgan's perspective on Cisco's involvement as a party in this proceeding."
Centripetal attorney Paul Andre of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP told Law360 that they "look forward to presenting our case to the court via Zoom and overcoming any technical challenges that might come up."
Centripetal filed suit in February 2018 alleging Cisco was infringing 11 of its patents on network technology.
Cisco filed a number of petitions for inter partes review of a number of those patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the district court stayed the suit in February 2019.
In September 2019, however, the court lifted the stay so that the suit could proceed as to the patents that were not subject to IPR challenges, and the case is heading to trial on the claims of five patents.
Earlier this year, Cisco won one of those IPR petitions, as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board invalidated Centripetal's U.S. Patent No. 9,124,552, saying it was obvious in light of a Sourcefire 3D System user manual that the board said qualifies as a printed publication.
The patents-in-suit are U.S. Patent Nos. 9,137,205, 9,203,806, 9,560,176, 9,686,193 and 9,917,856.
Centripetal is represented by Paul J. Andre, Lisa Kobialka, James Hannah and Hannah Lee of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP and Stephen Edward Noona of Kaufman & Canoles PC.
Cisco is represented by Louis N. Jameson, Matthew C. Gaudet, John R. Gibson, Jennifer H. Forte and Joseph A. Powers of Duane Morris LLP, Neil H. MacBride of Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Dabney J. Carr IV of Troutman Sanders LLP.
The case is Centripetal Networks Inc. v. Cisco Systems Inc., case number 2:18-cv-00094, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
-- Additional reporting by Britain Eakin. Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.
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