Even the Supreme Court is working remotely

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday pulled off not one but two historic firsts… conducting its first-ever hearing by teleconference and providing a live-feed of the audio - making it the first time ever that the public could listen live to the high court’s proceedings.

Chief Justice John Roberts served as a sort of master of ceremonies in a case involving hotel reservation website Booking.com, which is looking to trademark its name.

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SAYING [AUDIO ONLY]:

“You’ll hear arguments this morning in case 19-46 – United States Patent and Trademark Office versus Booking.com.”

Like many remote workers during these times, the justices proved they, too, could embrace technology.

Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas even did something he almost never does – he spoke.

Thomas’ questions during Monday’s oral arguments were the first he has asked since March of 2019 – his previous question came three years before that.

Here’s his back and forth Monday with an attorney from the Trademark Office.

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS, SAYING [AUDIO ONLY]:

“Could Booking acquire an 800 number that’s a vanity number – 1-800-BOOKING, for example – that is similar to 1-800-PLUMBING, which is a registered trademark?”

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT LAWYER ERICA ROSS, SAYING [AUDIO ONLY]:

“The core problem with Booking.com is that it allows respondent to monopolize booking on the internet because of the fact that longer domain names of respondents’ competitors – like ebooking.com and hotelbooking.com – can include booking.com. That is not as obviously true of something like 1-800-BOOKING.”

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer then said he had the same question as Thomas’, which he phrased slightly differently.

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, SAYING [AUDIO ONLY]:

“You can have a trademark that’s a telephone number, so why can’t you have a trademark that’s dotcom?”

A small moment of levity for listeners came when Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to do what many of us have done when on a conference call – mistakenly kept her phone on ‘mute’ when called upon to speak.

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SAYING [AUDIO ONLY]:

“Justice Sotomayor?” [LONG PAUSE] “Justice Sotomayor?”

(SOUND BITE) (ENGLISH) U.S. JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SAYING [AUDIO ONLY]:

“I’m sorry Chief….”

The court has scheduled teleconference arguments for a total of 10 cases over the next two weeks. The biggest ones are three that focus on the question of whether President Trump can keep his financial records, including his tax returns, secret. Those cases will be argued on May 12th.

Video Transcript

- The US Supreme Court on Monday pulled off not one but two historic firsts, conducting its first ever hearing by teleconference and providing a live feed of the audio, making it the first time ever that the public could listen live to the high court's proceedings.

Chief Justice John Roberts served as a sort of master of ceremonies in a case involving hotel reservation website Booking.com, which is looking to trademark its name.

JOHN ROBERTS: We'll hear arguments this morning in case 19-46-- "United States Patent and Trademark Office versus Booking.com." Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas even did something he almost never does-- he spoke.

Thomas's questions during Monday's oral arguments were the first he has asked since March of 2019. His previous question came three years before that.

Here's his back and forth Monday with an attorney from the Trademark Office.

CLARENCE THOMAS: Could Booking acquire an 800 number that's a vanity number-- 1-800-BOOKING, for example, that is similar to 1-800-PLUMBING, which is a registered mark.

ERICA ROSS: The core problem with Booking.com is that it allows respondent to monopolize booking on the internet because of the fact that longer domain names of respondents' competitors, like ebooking.com and hotelbooking.com can include booking.com. That is not as obviously true of something like 1-800-BOOKING.

- Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer then said he had the same question as Thomas', which he phrased slightly differently.

STEPHEN BREYER: You can have a trademark that's a telephone number, so why can't you have a trademark that's a dotcom.

- A small moment of levity for listeners came when Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to do what many of us have done when on a conference call-- mistakenly kept her phone on mute when called upon to speak.

JOHN ROBERTS: Justice Sotomayor? Justice Sotomayor?

SONIA SOTOMAYOR: I'm sorry, Chief.

- The court has scheduled teleconference arguments for a total of 10 cases over the next two weeks. The biggest ones are three that focus on the question of whether President Trump can keep his financial records, including his tax returns, secret. Those cases will be argued on May 12.