Scinopharm Taiwan Ltd v Eli Lily & Co  EWHC 631 (Pat) was a ruling last Friday from Mr Justice Kitchin in the Patents Court, England and Wales. It's the sort of patent cases that law bloggers dread: lots of discussion of the technology and the patents themselves, but not much in the way of law. Reading the judgment one receives the impression that most of the six days spent in court must have been given over to a careful weighing up of the testimony of two extremely erudite, credible expert witnesses whose erudition and credibility was unable to overcome the differences between their -- or one might say their sides' -- respective positions. There was a further problem, it seems. One side's expert was not familiar with some of the practical problems that those working in the field had experienced. The other side's expert gave answers that "... tended to be full ... because he did not properly understand the questions being put to him".
It is significant that proposals for reform of patent litigation tend to assume that the appointment of partisan experts is a good thing. Certainly the fact that a party has a 'tame' expert who views its position sympathetically is a comfort -- but where the other party has the same comfort the gain is arguably illusory. If each side were to nominate an expert, and the two experts were between them to nominate a single, neutral expert, much time, effort, cost and indeed potential damage to the credibility of the experts might be saved. It is time for those who advocate the maintenance of the present system of witnesses taking sides to offer some firm justification, in theory or in practice, if they wish to convince others that there is a case for retaining what looks to some like a wasteful duplication of efforts and resources.