The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, citing public health efforts to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 transmission, ordered that an April hearing in the Uniloc v. Apple patent case be conducted by phone rather than in person and denied EFF’s request to allow the public to watch the proceeding by video.

EFF urged the court earlier this week to make public a video of the hearing, in which patent troll Uniloc will have to explain for the first time in open court why it should be allowed to seal from public view documents in the case explaining how it operates. Uniloc has sued hundreds of companies alleging patent infringement and has sought excessive, unjustified sealing of documents that keep the public, small businesses, and patent reform advocates in the dark about whether it actually owns the patents at issue.

We are gratified that the court responded quickly to our request, and respect the court’s decision to take safety precautions amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

We continue to believe that courts should honor the public’s right to access the work of the judiciary by livestreaming hearings on their websites—which many federal courts and almost all state supreme courts are already doing. Simple video technology enables courts to ensure that less-resourced individuals and businesses that face patent claims, not just highly-paid lawyers and their corporate clients, have access to facts and information revealed in court.

These events also demonstrate the public benefits that come when courts make it a part of their general practice to use video technology to make appellate arguments accessible to the public. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which provides video access by default, has given attorneys the option of participating in upcoming oral arguments via video. That means the parties will still have the chance to participate fully in the hearing and the public the chance to access it fully. We hope that other courts will see the public benefits that come from maximizing the public’s access as a matter of course.


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