A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware


Entries for tag: Discovery Dispute

"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.

"Do we want to bring this discovery dispute, or do we want to cross their corporate rep at trial? Choices, choices..." Vladislav Babienko, Unsplash

We've written before about how the Court sometimes sets up escalating obstacles for parties who are insensitive to the Court's time and bring too many discovery disputes. In that case, the Court gave the parties "homework" (writing letters to the Court) after their seventh discovery dispute.

In Apple Inc. v. Masimo Corporation, C.A. No. 22-1377-MN-JLH (D. Del.), the Court referred all pre-trial matters up until dispositive motions to Magistrate Judge Hall.

Judge Hall took action after the parties brought what looks like seven discovery disputes. The docket shows the Court's escalating response to the parties disputes:

  • June 1 - First teleconference
  • June 16 - Second teleconference
  • July 7 - First in-person hearing
  • July 14 - Second in-person hearing
  • August 3 - Third in-person hearing
  • September 1 - Fourth in-person hearing; Court warns that future disputes will be charged to trial time
  • September 14 - Fifth in-person hearing; Court charges the parties' trial time

Guessing from the docket, it looks like the parties brought a number of rapid-fire discovery disputes starting on June 1. For the third dispute in about a month, the Court increased the friction on the parties by forcing them to come to Delaware to argue the disputes.

That doesn't seem to have slowed them down at all. After three in-person disputes ...

Bonjour dear readers! I have missed you all so. The blog vacation has been a real boon for us, and we've got a whole trove of opinions, orders, and shouted comments built up to discuss over the next few weeks.

One of the first that caught my eye was an order from Judge Burke that contained that rarest of gems -- praise for a party to a discovery dispute -- and included a neat primer on what the Court likes to see when ruling on them.

I don't know why, but whenever you ask it to include text it always sort of converts it into a realistic seeming eastern european language
I don't know why, but whenever you ask it to include text it always sort of converts it into a realistic seeming eastern european language AI-Generated, displayed with permission

The dispute in question was pretty standard stuff, with the defendant wanting a supplemental protective order that gave extra protections to design files that it likened to source code. As the party seeking the stricter protective order, they bore the burden which the Court found they met easily:

Defendant did here what too few parties in discovery disputes do: it made a detailed factual record, supported by multiple sworn declarations, that strongly supported its arguments. That is, Defendant has demonstrated that the "highly technical details necessary to fabricate [its] proprietary... lens designs" are, "in effect, the source code of lenses" and "are as commercially sensitive as any other form of source code[,]" such that they should receive the heightened form of protection set out in the SPO.

ImmerVision, Inc. v. Apple Inc., C.A. No 21-1484, D.I. 136 (D. Del. Aug. 4, 2023) (Oral Order).

The "detailed factual record" here was more straightforward [read: achievable] than you might think. The defendant submitted 2 declarations: a 3-pager from ...

Yeah. Everybody can see the frog.
Yeah. Everybody can see the frog. Kieran Wood, Unsplash

As Delaware counsel, I sometimes have to say something along the lines of "the Court is going to see right through that" or "nobody is as sly as they think they are."

Usually this is in the context of something like slipping wholesale invalidity arguments into a claim construction brief (seriously? You think you are going to win SJ of anticipation at claim construction?) or "just flagging" a completely unrelated and irrelevant issue in a discovery dispute.

I saw an example of this last week in Speyside Medical, LLC v. Medtronic Corevalve, LLC, C.A. No. 20-361−GBW−CJB, D.I. 290 (D. Del. Jun. 26, 2023).

In Speyside, the …

Please Stay on the Path
Mark Duffel, Unsplash

The headline is a nice quote from a Judge Burke oral order last week in Bausch & Lomb Incorporated v. SBH Holdings LLC, C.A. No. 20-1463-GBW-CJB, D.I. 77 (D. Del. May 12, 2023).

There, the defendant moved to stay but apparently failed to meet-and-confer at all before moving. The plaintiff wisely called them out for failing to do so:

As an initial matter, it is undisputed that SBH did not attach a certification pursuant to D. Del. LR 7.1.1 to its Motion or letter brief; nor could it have, because there was no meet and confer between counsel. The first B+L heard about SBH’s Motion was in SBH’s letter to the Court …

francois-olwage-X_RxDiKDSuU-unsplash
Francois Olwage, Unsplash

Sir Isaac Newton once wrote to Robert Hooke (Hooke’s Law): “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This quote was the cornerstone on which I built my 5th grade graduation speech, because it seemed to be an eloquent way to say “don’t reinvent the wheel”.

Judge Hatcher appears to be building on the knowledge accumulated by judges occupying the bench before her. In particular, Judge Hatcher’s new form Scheduling Order for patent cases seems strongly inspired by Judge Hall’s and Judge Burke’s form orders.

Here are a few differences . . .

  • Omits the paragraph on the unavailability of the ADR Process. This indicates that the Court expects litigants to …

Broken Communication
Reid Naaykens, Unsplash

Parties can freely stipulate to many things in the District of Delaware, and often stipulations to extend deadlines are filed close to the last minute, especially where the parties are working toward agreement but ultimately cannot agree on the final filing in time (or else are having trouble connecting with the other side).

However, stipulations filed close to the Delaware witching hour (5:00PM EST) can be fraught with risk of the Court's denial, as we’ve seen in past heart-stopping examples. We’ve warned before that requests to move Court-scheduled conferences are in the “iffy” category, and combined with last minute filing, can end in disappointment for everyone, as shown in an oral order from Judge Noreika last week in Neurocrine Biosciences, Inc. v. Lupin Limited et al., C.A. 21-1042, D.I. 197 (D. Del. Jul. 16, 2021):

On April 17, 2023, the Court instructed the parties to talk to each other about their disputes so that a follow-up call with the Court (set for April 21, 2023) would be more productive than the prior call. On April 21, 2023, a few hours before the set call, the parties submitted a stipulation requesting the April 21 call be delayed. After further inquiries, it became clear that, in the five days after the Court directed the parties to TALK, they did not do so. The Court intended to address that during the April 21 call, but no counsel appeared for the call (notwithstanding that the Court had not granted the request for a delay). THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, should the parties not inform the Court that they have resolved their dispute in full by Tuesday April 25, 2023, lead trial counsel SHALL appear in person in Courtroom 4A on April 26, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. ORDERED by Judge Maryellen Noreika on 4/21/2023.

Judge Noreika previously indicated frustration with the magnitude of this particular discovery dispute (on search methods to find responsive documents), so the parties were on thin ice long before ...

It begins with a series of interminably long emails. I say that you really should be producing these documents—I cite cases, exhaustively describe the items sought, and cite check the whole thing like it's headed to the Supreme Court. You respond by pointing out that I am just hopelessly misguided, and have perhaps been drinking. You also cite cases.

Eventually everyone gets on the phone to hash things out. Two hours later you agree to take my positions "under advisement" and call it a day.

Meet and confer accomplished.

Why is this one so creepy?  It's just supposed to be werewolves shaking hands
Why is this one so creepy? It's just supposed to be werewolves shaking hands AI-Generated, displayed with permission

It's not always that bad, but there is definite potential for one or both parties to drag the process out. It's rare to see any consequences to this sort of slow-rolling, as it's usually invisible to the Court.

Every now and then, though, someone gets called out for it, and yesterday was one of those days. The dispute in TwinStrand Biosciences, Inc. v. Guardant Health, Inc., C.A. No. 21-1126-GBW-SRF (D. Del. Apr. 24, 2023) (Oral Order) was your usual request that a party supplement an interrogatory. Judge Fallon granted the motion, but took the unusual step of noting the somewhat tortured history of the parties' correspondence

Guardant's second supplemental response to Interrogatory No. 6 provides some of this information for only one of the Asserted Patents. Guardant represented that it would produce and identify documents responsive to the Interrogatory under Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(d) as discovery continued. Guardant's responses to Plaintiffs' requests for supplementation of Interrogatory No. 6 during the meet and confer process suggest that Guardant may have additional responsive information that has not yet been disclosed. (As of March 17, 2023, Guardant represented it "will provide our position or a supplementation in due course"); (As of April 4, 2023, Guardant was "considering [Plaintiffs'] proposal and hope[s] to have a response soon."). Otherwise, Guardant could have put the matter to rest and avoided burdening the Court by simply confirming that it had no additional information responsive to Interrogatory No. 6.

The phrasing here is not quite a rebuke, but parties generally like to keep their name as far removed from ...