Monday, 2 September 2013

When a party is unrepresented at a hearing and witnesses don't appear

Coupling Technology Ltd v Coupling Solutions LLC BL O/342/13, a 23 August 2013 decision of Mr A. C. Howard in the UK Intellectual Property Office, takes a look at the problem of dealing with evidence in a dispute relating to entitlement to two patent applications for couplings for the use in connecting pipes, where the defendant stated that it would not be represented at the oral hearing, nor would it be bringing its witnesses for cross-examination.

There was no obligation on the part of the hearing officer to strike out the defendant's evidence, but what should he do?  He reasoned as follows.  Since the defendant had chosen not to avail himself of the opportunity to cross-examine the claimant's witnesses, the evidence of those witnesses would be treated as uncontested.  In contrast, while the evidence of the defendant's witnesses would not be disregarded, it would be given little weight. Where there existed any conflict between the defendant's and the claimant’s evidence, the latter would be allowed to prevail unless this course led to the hearing officer reaching an absurd or totally implausible conclusion.

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