The PTAB Warns Attorney That Speaking Objections May Warrant Exclusion of Expert's Testimony

October 17, 2014

In an inter partes review Medtronic Inc. et al. v. Troy R. Norred, M.D., the Petitioner sought guidance from the Board regarding the Patent Owner's objections during the deposition of an expert appearing on behalf of the Patent Owner. According to the Petitioner, the Patent Owner made speaking objections and suggested answer to the witness. For example, petitioner read a representative example of Patent Owner's objection, which began "'Objection, misleading . . .' and then went on to explain at some length that the question was misleading because it asked for a conclusion from the witness based on only a portion of a patent that Patent Owner contends was 'taken out of context.'"

The Board began its analysis by reciting the Patent Trial Practice Guide's instructions regarding the proper method of objecting during a deposition:

Consistent with the policy expressed in Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and corresponding ยง 42.1(b), unnecessary objections, "speaking" objections, and coaching of witnesses in proceedings before the Board are strictly prohibited. Cross-examination testimony should be a question and answer conversation between the examining lawyer and the witness. The defending lawyer must not act as an intermediary, interpreting questions, deciding which questions the witness should answer, and helping the witness formulate answers while testifying.

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3. An objection must be stated concisely in a nonargumentative and non-suggestive manner. Counsel must not make objections or statements that suggest an answer to a witness. Objections should be limited to a single word or term. Examples of objections that would be properly stated are: "Objection, form"; "Objection, hearsay"; "Objection, relevance"; and "Objection, foundation." Examples of objections that would not be proper are: "Objection, I don't understand the question"; "Objection, vague"; "Objection, take your time answering the question"; and "Objection, look at the document before you answer." An objecting party must give a clear and concise explanation of an objection if requested by the party taking the testimony or the objection is waived.

The Board concluded that the Patent Owner's objections were improper and further warned the Patent Owner's counsel that "further violations of the standards set forth in the Practice Guide may warrant sanctions including, but not limited to, exclusion of the primary declaration testimony from the witness being deposed."

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The Board's decision illustrates that it will not tolerate counsel's failure to follow the rules set forth in the Practice Guide. In addition, counsel who insist on making speaking objections, suggesting answers, or otherwise trying to interfere with the examination of an expert risk having the expert's testimony excluded. Medtronic Inc. et al. v. Troy R. Norred, M.D., Case IPR2014-00110 (PTAB Oct. 8, 2014) (Paper 23) (Weatherly, J.).

The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. The authors represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation in U.S. District Courts and in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, including numerous IPRs currently pending before the PTAB. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Greg Cordrey at 949.623.7236 or GCordrey@jmbm.com.