A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Protective Order

When I was maybe 12, my class took a trip to the public library and we were told to pick up books on our likely future careers. This was before blogs were invented, so I had to find something else. I ended up getting a book on electrical engineering and a book on screenwriting -- which I suppose adds up to within a rounding error of patent blogger.

I don't remember much of the electrical engineering (obvs) but I vividly recall the chapter on capturing your characters' vernacular. There was an example scene of a clandestine drug purchase, wherein the dealer refused to sell due to nearby police. Looking back, I think the author had a problem. It went like …

During our long break, when Andrew and I languished upon a beach, trading daiquiri recipes across a bridge table whilst a jazz band played Auld Lang Syne on repeat (they seemed quite uncomfortable in their tuxedos), Judge Bryson brought us an opinion with a new twist on an old PO dispute.

Is this what my life would be like were it not for the blog?
Is this what my life would be like were it not for the blog? AI-Generated, displayed with permission

The Plaintiff in Rheault v. Halma Holdings Inc., C.A. No. 23-700-WCB, was not a corporation. He was just a dude . . . named Rheault. The parties disputed whether Rheault could have access to all of the information produced by the defendants in the action, or if there should be some separate attorney's eyes only tier that he was not privy too.

As Judge Bruson noted, a dispute about whether a particular person should have access to the most confidential documents usually depends upon whether that person is a "competitive decisionmaker."

The question whether a particular individual should be allowed access to highly confidential materials has arisen in a number of cases. Such cases often involve the question whether certain employees of a party, such as in-house counsel, should be permitted access to materials with that designation. The answer to that question typically turns on whether the employees in question are involved in competitive decisionmaking on behalf of the party. If so, those employees are typically barred from having access to materials designated as highly confidential. If not, they are often allowed access to those materials.

Rheault v. Halma Holdings Inc., C.A. No. 23-700-WCB, at 2 (D. Del. Dec. 22, 2023) (Mem. Op.)

Here, however, Rheault was a guy. Presumably he makes his own day to day decisions about whether to go to Arby's or Fudruckers (Arby's), but he wasn't involved in the operation of any particular company (the dispute actually centered upon the contract selling his company to the defendants).

Judge Bryson found this point dispositive, at least in the absence of any evidence that he would rejoin the market imminently and compete with the defendants:

Given that there is no evidence that Mr. Rheault intends to resume activity in his former field of business and that the defendants have not shown any other reason why Mr. Rheault should be denied access to the materials designated as “Highly Confidential—Attorneys’ Eyes Only,” I conclude that the defendants have not satisfied their burden of showing entitlement to the restrictive protective order they have requested.

Id. at 7.

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 ...

I was always disappointed when I became a lawyer that my day-to-day work did not involve more loopholes. You watch any TV show -- Law & Order (original or extra crispy (that's SVU)), The Good Wife, Matlock, all you hear is loophole this and loophole that. But every day I come into the office and its just the regular old law. It just seemed less clever than a loophole.

I didn't ask for him to be holding a cheeto, and I can't explain why he is #Snacknet
I didn't ask for him to be holding a cheeto, and I can't explain why he is #Snacknet AI-Generated, displayed with permission

I was thus borderline ecstatic to see Judge Burke deciding a discovery dispute over what seems to be a genuine loophole in a protective order.

The prosecution bar in FedEx Corporate Services, Inc. v. Roambee Corp., C.A. No. 21-175-CFC-CJB (D. Del. Feb. 13, 2023) had three distinct parts.

The first was a basic prosecution bar:

[P]ersons . . . who have received access to Designated Material, shall not be engaged . . . in prosecution of patent applications on behalf of the Receiving Party . . . claiming tracking devices used in systems that monitor shipments, without prior approval to do so from the Producing Party.

The second allowed persons otherwise covered by the bar to advise on subjects other than the drafting crafting or amending of claims before the ...

Sometimes, it can be hard to take a hint.
Sometimes, it can be hard to take a hint. Edwin Hooper, Unsplash

Last month, we wrote about out-of-town co-counsel who the Court suggested may have mis-handled confidential information. The out-of-town counsel failed to appear for a hearing about the incident back in May.

Afterwards, opposing counsel requested sanctions including revocation of his pro hac admission, the out-of-town counsel withdrew his pro hac appearance. Since his withdrawal in May, the case has been re-assigned to Judge Williams, and Court had been quiet on this issue—suggesting perhaps he had successfully skirted any sanctions by mooting the relief.

Shortly after the withdrawal, the party got new Delaware counsel, and the previous Delaware counsel (who had to defend the failure to appear) withdrew. …

Andrew is better at this A.I. thing, mine still appear monstrous
A.I. Generated, displayed with permission

Every protective order I've ever seen has a provision at the end requiring the parties to return or (more likely) destroy any confidential information (with some limited exceptions) from the other party when the case is over. It's generally not a contentious paragraph.

Judge Fallon, however, dealt with a discovery dispute on this issue, that I was surprised had never come up before -- what happens when there are multiple unrelated defendants, as in ANDA cases? Do you destroy the documents when the relevant defendant drops out of the case, or can you keep them until the whole consolidated mess is over and done with?

Per Judge Fallon, the answer is you get to …

Fire Extinguisher
Piotr Chrobot, Unsplash

An interesting transcript just hit the docket in CBV, Inc. v. ChanBond, LLC, C.A. No. 21-1456-GBW (D. Del.), a contract case, after the transcript restrictions expired. The hearing itself took place back in April, before Judge Noreika.

In the case, defendant ChanBond filed a letter seeking emergency relief after it inadvertently served a sealed filing on out-of-town counsel for another party, who allegedly took the position that he need not maintain the confidentiality of the document, either under the Court's order sealing the document or local rule 26.2 (which provides a confidentiality obligation prior to the entry of a protective order, as explained below).

Out-of-town counsel responded to the request for emergency …

Ashin K Suresh, Unsplash

Yesterday, Special Master Gregory B. Williams issued an order in TQ Delta, LLC v. Dish Network Corp., C.A. No. 16-614-RGA (D. Del.) requiring the plaintiff to turn over unredacted copies of its expert reports, declarations, and testimony from prior cases. These materials contain the confidential information—possibly even source code—of prior defendants.

As set forth by the Special Master, this information is relevant to the plaintiff's current cases, because it involves related patents with similar issues:

[T]he Prior Litigation Materials are relevant to the claims and defenses in the present action. Specifically, [the expert] Dr. Madisetti's prior opinions concern other "phase scrambling" patents in the same patent family as the '158 and …

The dam continues to break on sealed filings.
The dam continues to break on sealed filings. Englebright Dam, Amit Patel, CC BY 2.0

We noted last week that Judge Andrews has been cracking down on parties filing entire exhibits under seal. Since then, he has issued three more orders regarding filings where exhibits were sealed in their entirety. Beyond those, in two instances he has rejected even more limited redactions:

ORAL ORDER: The justification for sealing is non-existent. Apparently, per Ms. Pascales letter . . . , Medacta is the party who wants to redact. The entire document [that was filed] is going to be unsealed on August 27, 2021, unless Medacta submits before then (1) the document with the redactions in yellow highlighting, and (2) a …

Is the dam about to break on over-redaction of filings?
Is the dam about to break on over-redaction of filings? Thomas Dumortier, Unsplash

Most patent cases involve a protective order, and the parties tend mark documents other than prior art as confidential or attorney's eyes only. As a result, many of the more substantive filings—particularly discovery motions, summary judgment motions, and pretrial orders—are filed under seal.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, particularly the Northern District of California, the District of Delaware's procedure for filing under seal is not burdensome. Once a protective order is entered, no motion is required to file a document under seal, and the parties simply file redactions within seven days.

Over time, parties have become more and more liberal with their redactions, often heavily redacting sealed …