For several years I was the lead attorney at a Taiwan company that manufactures technology and consumer electronic products, from light-emitting diodes to liquid-crystal displays. Every month we received a new demand for patent licensing or indemnification and it was my job to dispose of them at no cost, without licensing, litigation, or outside counsel. Usually it was possible, but occasionally we found ourselves mired in full-blown litigation.
It’s no secret patent litigation costs are immense. According to the American Intellectual Property Law Association, the cost of an average patent lawsuit, where $1 million to $25 million is at risk, is $1.6 million through the end of discovery and $2.8 million through final disposition. Adding insult to injury, more than 60% of all patent suits are filed by non-practicing entities (NPEs) that manufacture no products and rely on litigation as a key part of their business model.
However, whether one represents a plaintiff or defendant, manufacturer or NPE, there are actions one can take to help manage the costs.
Below are some general guidelines. Continue reading
Any litigant in Taiwan who seeks discovery from a U.S. adversary will face serious challenges, because Taiwan’s legal system lacks a formal discovery system. There are no procedures for interrogatories, document production requests or depositions. Moreover, even if a litigant were to apply to the Taiwan judge and obtain an order requiring discovery responses from a U.S. entity, any attempt to enforce that order would have to be made from Taiwan to the U.S. through a cumbersome letters rogatory process.
However, there may be a solution under U.S. law. 28 U.S.C. §1782 states that the U.S. district court where a person or entity is located may order that person or entity to give testimony or produce documents or things, for use in a foreign or international tribunal, upon application of an interested person. So, is that the answer? May a party to legal proceedings in Taiwan use §1782 to obtain discovery from a U.S. party? Perhaps, but subject to certain limitations.
First, there’s the question of whether the demanding party qualifies as an interested person. Fortunately, if the demanding party is a litigant there should be no problem, as the U.S. Supreme Court has explained in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241, 254 (2004) that, “litigants are included among, and may be the most common example of, the ‘interested person’ who may invoke §1782.” Continue reading
It is common in U.S. patent litigation for a party accused of infringement to seek to depose inventors of the patents-in-suit. If the inventors are officers, directors or managing agents of a party and live or work in the U.S., it should be a routine matter to compel their depositions pursuant to the federal rules of civil procedure (FRCP). If the inventors are located outside the U.S. and do not consent to be deposed, the process is more burdensome, but often their depositions can be compelled pursuant to the provisions of the Hague Convention or other relevant treaty.
However, the process may be especially difficult if the inventor is located in Taiwan, is unwilling, and is no longer, or never was, employed by a party. First, Taiwan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, so any attempt to compel the unwilling witness will have to proceed by way of letters rogatory. Second, if the inventor is not an officer, director or managing agent, the FRCP won’t apply and one must find another legal basis for ordering the testimony.
A number of courts have found that legal basis in the invention assignment agreement that the inventor signed in order to give up his rights in the patent. Invention assignment agreements usually contain language requiring the inventor to render certain assistance to the assignee of the patent. Depending on the particular facts and contract language, it is not unusual for a U.S. court to order a party to produce a foreign inventor to testify at deposition or trial, overseas or in the U.S., based on the notion that the assignment agreement gives the party “control” over the inventor.
What the courts gloss over is the extreme difficulty a party may encounter attempting to compel the inventor to comply with the order if the inventor refuses. In Taiwan, in particular, parties generally lack such control. Continue reading
Due to the costs and difficulties of taking depositions outside the U.S., one should usually search for alternate solutions first. Try to limit the scope of required foreign evidence, obtain the evidence through other means, obtain it from the target’s parent company, subsidiaries, affiliates, employers or officers who are located in the U.S. or, if possible, convince the witnesses to fly to the U.S. to be deposed.
When such tactics won’t suffice, depositions can be taken in Asia, but one should prepare carefully to ensure the process will be successful and testimony will be admissible in court. If the depositions will take place in Japan, several months will be required just to reserve a room in the embassy or consulate and obtain required visas. Even in less rigid countries, it can be daunting lining up qualified interpreters, stenographers and making other critical arrangements, while ensuring compliance with applicable U.S., foreign and possibly international laws.
Consequently, prudent counsel will prepare well in advance, seeking stipulations from opposing counsel, informing the presiding U.S. judge of the plans, obtaining necessary orders, and retaining foreign counsel to assist with foreign laws and logistics. Continue reading
Earlier this year, the judge in a US patent infringement lawsuit issued an Order requiring three Japanese witnesses to be deposed in Taiwan, rather than California or Japan, because taking the depositions in California would have been too inconvenient for the witnesses and taking them in Japan would have involved too many legal and procedural hurdles.
The witnesses argued the depositions should be held in Japan, because they lived and worked there (their Japanese employer was a defendant and they were being deposed as agents or officers) and US courts recognize a general right for witnesses to be deposed near their residence or place of business. Opposing counsel argued for California, because the onerous requirements concerning taking depositions in Japan allegedly offset any inconvenience of forcing the witnesses to travel. The judge settled on Taiwan as a compromise, “present[ing] minimal inconvenience to the witnesses and avoid[ing] the procedural and legal impediments to conducting the depositions in Japan.”
When taking depositions of foreign witnesses for use in US litigation, the process can be greatly simplified if the witnesses will agree to be voluntarily deposed in the US. Absent such consent, FRCP Rule 28 authorizes several procedures for initiating depositions in a foreign country. However, as explained below, each of those options has limitations and the process can be challenging. Continue reading