Effective Use of Skype in ADR Presentations– The Virtual Expert

This week I had another opportunity to use Skype in a quasi judicial forum.   One of my partners and I represented a major corporation in an appearance before the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) of the Better Business Bureau.   The NAD is a voluntary dispute adjudication forum where national advertisers can voluntarily take disputes alleging unfair or deceptive advertising by competitors.  The process allows a rapid adjudication of claims without much of the expense, delay and monetary exposure that is typically incurred in a traditional federal court Lanham Act lawsuit.

The way the process works is that the advertising challenger pays a fee and files a detailed claim with the NAD. If the NAD accepts the claim for adjudication, then the advertiser is provided an opportunity to participate in the informal NAD process.   If the advertiser agrees to do so, then they file a response to the complaint of the challenger. The challenger is then allowed a reply in a letter format.  Finally, the advertiser, who has the initial burden of persuasion, gets a final reply. The final step of the process is that the NAD case managers will meet individually with each of the parties separately to discuss their respective positions and to pose any questions they may have.  Two weeks later the NAD provides a detailed advisory opinion.

In our particular case, there was an important expert who could provide valuable evidence on the testing process for our clients superiority claim.  However, he is a professor at a major university and had to be in town the first day of class—which just so happened to fall on the same day that our NAD presentation was scheduled.  Fortunately, the professor could be available for several hours to participate in NAD meeting process, if we could arrange to have him appear electronically.

We contacted NAD and arranged to have a high-quality wired Internet access cable available in the meeting room. We then used Skype with a standard sized Dell PC laptop in full screen mode. The laptop was placed on the table in front of a chair at the conference table just as if the witness was sitting in the room. We used two high-quality Bose computer speakers to ensure that our witness was heard by the case managers. We also used a separate USB camera (MS Lifecam 3000 w/ built in microphone) which we directed at the iPad Keynote presentation on the separate monitor.  This setup made it possible for our expert to keep up with what was going on in the presentation.  Because of the way the laptop was positioned, it was almost like the expert was there in person. It was amazing how natural the discourse was between our expert and the other participants. The meeting lasted about two hours and the expert participated throughout.  Skype performed flawlessly.

This is the second time I have used Skype in a professional setting with great results.  The key to success is testing the hookup before the presentation to work out ay bugs.

Now Skype has introduced a paid version allowing for ten person video conference calls.  I will look for an opportunity to put this new functionality to use and will report back to you as to whether it is practical for professional use.

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