A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Discovery Dispute

Bringing a discovery dispute is a bit of a 3-body problem. At any given time, you've probably got a half dozen complaints with what the other side is doing. When one boils over into a dispute you have to grapple with whether you should just bring all of them—and risk looking unreasonable—or just address the most pressing and risk having to raise serial disputes, which might look even worse. The push and pull can quickly become insoluble.

Guillermo Ferla, Unsplash

Luckily, we got an Order from Judge Burke this week that should make this calculus slightly easier going forward.

The defendants in Bardy Diagnostics, Inc. v. Vital Connect, Inc., C.A. No. 22-351-CFC-CJB, D.I. 97 (D. Del. June 11, 2024) (Oral Order) brought the first discovery dispute of the case (by either party) via judge Burkes usual procedure of filing a letter listing the disputes.

The disputes read as the usual humdrum list of custodians not searched and rogs insufficiently answered. The only thing out of the ordinary, is that there were 5 of them included in the letter.

Judge Burke responded to the request for a teleconference the next day with ...

Just stop.
Just stop. Jana Knorr, Unsplash

Long-time readers can maybe skip this post, as we've discussed this issue before.

But I thought it was worth a post, because it's still something that comes up from time to time. But the court's rulings are clear: You can't redact information from document production just because you think it is irrelevant. You have to produce the documents without redactions.

This came up again this week, this time before visiting judge Murphy. Consistent with our other judges, he rejected the idea of permitting redactions of irrelevant material:

Defendants’ motion to modify the stipulated protective order (DI 52) is DENIED. . . . Defendants were unable to identify any occasion where a district court …

"Guys, if we write our own opening brief on their issue, we'll get more than twice the page limit! The Court loves extra briefing, right?" ron dyar, Unsplash

I've had this come up a couple of times lately, and an opinion came out on Friday that addresses it.

Here is an example scenario: Each side has a discovery dispute. The Court sets a briefing schedule with opening, answering, and reply 3-page briefs. Can each side spend half of its opening brief pre-briefing the other side's issues? Should they?

Judge Fallon resolved this on Friday with a clear "No". You wait for the other side to file their brief, and then respond:

ORAL ORDER re 49 Joint Motion for Discovery …

Do It Now
Brett Jordan, Unsplash

Last month we wrote about how delay is a motion killer. Procrastination is a problem most of us litigators share. But if you want your discovery motion granted, it's best to move now not later. Keep up the pressure.

We got another example of that yesterday in Tot Power Control, S.L. v. LG Electronics Inc., C.A. No. 21-1304-MN (D. Del. Apr. 23, 2024) (unsealed May 7, 2024). Tot is an opinion by Judge Fallon on several discovery motions, and two of them were denied due to delay.

First, the Court denied a request to compel plaintiff to produce communications related to valuations it received. Back in June 2023, the plaintiff had agreed …

Colored Plants
Scott Webb, Unsplash

This decision is a bit dense, but it's on an issue that could come up in any case.

The plaintiff in TOT Power Control, S.L. v. Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., C.A. No. 21-1305-MN (D. Del.) accused several products by name, and also stated in its infringement contentions that it would "seek discovery as to the identity of any [of the defendant's] products with substantially similar designs to the expressly listed accused products." D.I. 131.

The case progressed, and it turns out that the defendant does, indeed, have multiple products with similar names. The Court ultimately granted a motion to compel the defendant to provide financial discovery on each of the alternative products, even …

"Our two identified custodians have the 'majority' of relevant docs and any others have 'duplicative' info." Discovery dispute goes *poof*? AI-Generated, displayed with permission

In the District of Delaware, unless the parties agree otherwise, ESI discovery is guided by the Default Standard for Discovery. The Court published the Default Standard over a decade ago, and at this point quite a bit of case law has developed interpreting its various provisions.

Among other things, the Default Standard requires each party to identify "[t]he 10 custodians most likely to have discoverable information" in a case. These custodians' files will ultimately be searched as part of the document production process.

One common question is: what if we have less than 10 custodians with discoverable information? The answer to that is typically "disclose what you have," but I had not seen a case setting a standard for when a party can disclose less than 10 custodians—until this week.

In Attentive Mobile Inc. v. 317 Labs, Inc., C.A. No. 22-1163-CJB (D. Del.), Judge Burke addressed a discovery dispute where the defendant identified just four custodians. He denied a motion to compel the identification of more custodians based on an argument that the four custodians had a "majority" of the non-duplicative ...

Stick Figure Watch
AI-Generated, displayed with permission

If there is one thing that tends to kill discovery motions, it's delay. If you want to have the best chance of winning your motion to compel, supplement, strike, etc., you need to bring the motion early. Don't wait.

We got a good example of that last week in CosmoKey Solutions GmbH & Co. KG v. Duo Security, Inc., C.A. No. 18-1477-JLH, D.I. 163 (D. Del. Apr. 9, 2024). There, a defendant sought to compel a deposition of an inventor before a Markman hearing, arguing that the testimony was important for claim construction. The Court denied the request, in part because they waited too long:

ORAL ORDER: The Court has reviewed the discovery …

"Hang on, judge. You can't just rely on what is in our letter briefs. We filed those three days ago!" AI Generated, displayed with permission

Judge Burke issued an oral order late last week addressing a discovery dispute where a defendant requested that the Court order plaintiff to apply more e-mail search terms. He denied the request, noting that the parties were clearly still meeting-and-conferring:

ORAL ORDER: The Court, having reviewed the portion of the pending motion regarding discovery disputes, (D.I. 198), in which Defendant requests that the Court order Plaintiff to utilize 24 additional ESI search terms ("Defendant's request"), and the briefing related thereto, (D.I. 204; D.I. 212; D.I. 214), hereby ORDERS that Defendant's request is DENIED, without prejudice to renew. That request, as briefed, is clearly unripe. In the briefing, the parties, including Defendant, alternatively described the issue as one as to which the parties were: (1) "continu[ing] their meet and confers [such that Plaintiff] offered some supplemental ESI searches and... [Defendant] requested some modifications[,]" (D.I. 204 at 2); (2) "still negotiating on the scope of additional search terms and are not at an impasse" and "working... to narrow the additional search terms[,]" (D.I. 212 at 1); and (3) "continu[ing] to discuss matters" in that Defendant "intends to submit new search terms [that] should resolve all of [Plaintiff's] alleged criticism" such that the matter "should be resolved" in the future, (D.I. 214 at 1).

Topia Technology, Inc. v. Egnyte, Inc., C.A. No. 21-1821, D.I. 226 (D. Del. Feb. 9, 2024).

He explained why the Court requires parties to ...

"Counsel, go stand in the corner until you figure out what 'collegiality' means." Mag Pole, Unsplash

Several District of Delaware judges have discovery dispute procedures that require parties to first file a letter stating that the parties have met and conferred but are unable to resolve some disputes, and list the disputes.

This usually works out well, but a few issues can occasionally come up with this procedure. For example:

  1. One party refuses to meet-and-confer, forcing the other side to file solo.
  2. The parties have met and conferred to death, but one party refuses to sign the the joint letter anyway (or just refuses to respond), solely for the purpose of delay.
  3. One or more parties jump the gun, …

Where does the term
Where does the term "rolling basis" come from, anyway? Shane Rounce, Unsplash

The judges' form scheduling orders in D. Del. have deadlines for "substantial completion" of document production. Generally, this deadline is set so that the parties can get most of their documents out and then proceed to depositions.

This tends to be one of the key deadlines in cases, and it often the subject of disputes. We've talked before about how a party cannot withhold a category of documents until after the deadline, and how waiting to produce things until after the deadline can result in exclusion.

Parties typically agree to make "rolling productions" up until that deadline. But, sometimes, the "rolling production" is a trickle, with the bulk of the documents coming just before the deadline—leaving the other side to scramble to review everything in time for depositions.

This week we got some useful precedent from Judge Burke about how that technique is inappropriate, and how parties need to spread their "rolling" production out proportionally:

ORAL ORDER: The Court, having reviewed Plaintiff's discovery dispute motion ("Motion"), (D.I. 73), and the briefing related thereto, (D.I. 70; D.I. 72; D.I. 82), hereby ORDERS that the Motion is GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART as follows: (1) The Court agrees with Plaintiff that Defendants should make an orderly and proportional production of their ESI discovery, such that they should not be dumping the bulk of those remaining documents on Plaintiff at or near the December 5 substantial completion deadline. But the Court sees that Defendants have begun to move forward with those productions (perhaps spurred by Plaintiff's Motion), and it also agrees with Defendants that it is not in a good position to set an arbitrary number of ESI documents that should be produced each X days on Y dates.; and (2) So the Court will simply order that between now and December 5, Defendants should produce their remaining ESI discovery on a consistent, roughly proportional, rolling basis, such that Plaintiff does not get the bulk of the remaining documents at or near the deadline. Ordered by Judge Christopher J. Burke on 11/6/2023. (mlc) (Entered: 11/06/2023)

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Amazon.com, Inc., C.A. No. 22-1447-CJB, D.I. 91 (D. Del. Nov. 6, 2023).

The plaintiff had sought an order compelling the defendant to produce "50,000 documents per week" over the 7 weeks that were then remaining before the substantial completion deadline. The Court rejected that part of the request, possibly because the defendant argued it didn't have all that many documents.

But the order makes clear that the defendant has to roll out what it does have in a "roughly proportional, rolling basis" before the final deadline. Nice!

I've attached the order below so that we can all find it next time this issue comes up in a discovery dispute.