In Personalized Media Communications , LLC v. Amazon.com Inc., C.A. No. 13-1608-RGA (D. Del. Aug. 20, 2015), Special Master Paul M. Lukoff denied plaintiff’s motion for sanctions, which raised two distinct applications for relief: “(i) it wanted sanctions against Amazon for discovery misconduct, and (ii) it wanted [the court] to once more consider ordering Amazon to finally deliver source code packages which had still not been produced despite plaintiff’s relentless efforts.” Id. at 2. As to the first issue, the Special Maser explained that following Judge Andrews’ grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendants, this “case [was] closed” for purposes of “Rule 34 issues and concomitant Rule 37 enforcement features.” Id. at 2. The Special Master therefore concluded that “I have no authority to order source code production, even if I had been inclined to do so, or to order sanctions related to previous failures to produce source code.” Id. at 3. As to the second issue, the Special Master found that “the sanctions potential of Rule 37(a)(5)(A) is not worthy of invocation under these circumstances.” Id. at 8. The Special Master reasoned that “when put into the perspective of a late arriving but prospectively evolving approach to discovery of source code, I find that Amazon’s production of the recommendation service source code package in April 2015 was substantially justified.” Id.
In Broadsoft, Inc. v. Callwave Communications, L.L.C., C.A. No. 13-0711-RGA (D. Del. Apr. 30, 2015), Callwave requested that Broadsoft’s supplemental invalidity contentions, served four months before the close of fact discovery, be stricken as untimely and as inadequate notice of its invalidity theories. Callwave maintained that the supplemental contentions were “actually late contentions because they present a theory which is based entirely upon facts and information that has exclusively been in the possession of Broadsoft since the beginning of the case.” Id. at 1. Special Master Saville denied the motion to strike, explaining that, as no trial date was set, allowing the supplemental contentions would not disrupt the trial schedule, and there was no evidence of bad faith or willfulness on Broadsoft’s part. Id. at 2. The Special Master also disagreed that allowing them would prejudice Callwave, and also cited “the inequity and somewhat illogical result if the evidence that allegedly shows Broadsoft’s product was on sale more than a year before Callwave’s invention dates was stricken.” Id. at 3.
A recent special master decision from the District of Delaware provides guidance on two common discovery topics: the assertion of privilege and adequate preparation of a Rule 30(b)(6) witness. Special Master Terrell first explained that the “common legal interest” privilege was not applicable because the defendant did not adequately identify another party with which it shared a common interest merely by identifying an “unnamed possible joint venture.” Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Xellia Pharmaceuticals ApS, et al., C.A. No. 14-199-RGA, Special Master Or. at 4 (D. Del. Feb. 20, 2015). The Special Master also found that communications with foreign attorneys were not privileged and should be produced because “the law in this Court does not recognize the attorney client privilege protection for a foreign attorney, unless there is the involvement of a United States attorney, where the subject generally concerns a United States patent. [The defendant] willingly introduced this patent challenge in the U.S. by filing its ‘Paragraph IV certification’ concerning the ‘300 patent at issue in this lawsuit. Thus, the ‘touch base’ test [identified in some case law] is applicable.” Id. at 4-5.
The plaintiff also complained that the defendant’s 30(b)(6) witness was not adequately prepared for three noticed deposition topics: the decision to file a Paragraph IV certification, attempts to design-around the patent-in-suit, and analysis and investigation of the patent-in-suit. The Special Master concluded that the witness “was properly prepared and gave sufficient testimony in response to the Deposition Notice. . . . Some of the topics in the Deposition Notice overlap and it appears [the witness] gave extensive testimony relevant to the ‘300 patent. With respect to [the decision to file a Paragraph IV certification], testimony need not be given as to the specific legal advice in connection with the filing of the Paragraph IV certification. As to the factual basis for this filing, [the witness] testified about that under other Topics. [Furthermore,] it is not surprising that there would be some documents, particularly aged documents, as to which [the witness] would have no knowledge. On balance, I am satisfied that [the witness] was the appropriate witness for the Deposition Notice, made reasonable efforts to prepare, and gave testimony where she had relevant knowledge.” Id. at 6-7.
In a series of related cases (e.g., Inventor Holdings, LLC v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., C.A. No. 13-096-GMS (D. Del. Aug. 27, 2014)), Special Master Paul M. Lukoff issued an opinion relating to a number of protective order disputes. The parties had disagreements over: “the scope of the prosecution bar, the use of laptop computers by plaintiff’s attorneys and experts in the stand-alone computer access facility and the extent to which the plaintiff can obtain hard copies of source code pages.” Id. at 2.
As to the (bilateral) prosecution bar, the plaintiff wanted its litigation counsel to be able to “consult with [prosecution counsel]” in re-examination, inter partes review and covered business method review, “explaining that coordination is necessary to avoid taking inconsistent positions.” Id. at 3. The Special Master, relying on recent case law regarding prosecution bars in this District (Versata Software, Inc. v. Callidus Software, Inc.), concluded that the risk of inadvertent disclosure merited a “limited prosecution bar exemption similar to the one noted above in Versata,” where litigation counsel would not be allowed to consult with prosecution counsel if they reviewed source code in the litigation. Id. at 4. The Special Master observed that, since plaintiff’s litigation team may soon grow from three to five attorneys, it appeared that plaintiff would be able to “implement a response to the potentially irreconcilable situation created by access to source code on one hand and possible proceedings at the PTO on the other.” Id. at 5. The Special Master further decided that 1) the duration of this bar would be two years and 2) the subject matter of the bar would be “the broad subject matter of the patent-in-suit,” as defendant requested, because “[e]specially as a non-practicing entity, the risk is that the ambitions of the plaintiff are quite broad in terms of the reach of the technology they own.” Id.
Regarding the laptop computer issue, plaintiff requested laptop computers when accessing source code to facilitate note-taking. The parties had already agreed that no mobile phones would be allowed and that the source code would only be available at a stand-alone computer. The Special Master pointed out that “the plaintiff, having already agreed to create a fairly impervious environment . . . has already conceded that any device that could undermine that environment would jeopardize the integrity” of the confidential information. Id. at 6. Under these circumstances the Special Master explained that a laptop computer, even if lacking a camera or unable to transmit information from the stand-alone computer, would not qualify as acceptable. Id. Therefore, plaintiff’s notes would have to be hand-written.
Finally, regarding printing source code, plaintiff wanted to print 1,000 pages aggregate total, while defendants requested a limit of 250 pages aggregate total. The Special Master observed that the parties had yet to make all exchanges contemplated by Paragraph 4 of the District’s Default Standard for Discovery, and in light of “this state of incomplete discovery, we are probably not at a point yet where we know enough to establish the appropriate boundaries for ‘excessive’ printing.” Id. at 8. Therefore, the Special Master deferred decision on this issue, directing the plaintiff to apply to the Special Master if necessary and to note page numbers that “had the present ‘excessive’ threshold not been extant, they would have requested to be printed, so that those pages . . . can indeed be printed in the event the Court permits such.” Id. at 8.
Special Master Paul M. Lukoff recently recommended denying a plaintiff’s request for leave to serve a supplemental expert report in rebuttal of the defendant’s supplemental (and unexpected) report. Robocast, Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., C.A. No. 10-1055 (RGA) (D. Del. Jan. 21, 2014). The plaintiff argued it should be permitted a supplemental report to rebut the defendant’s own supplemental report, which the Court had permitted. The defendant countered that the Court previously made clear that no further reports would be permitted and, further, that it would be prejudiced if the plaintiff were allowed to serve a supplemental report at this stage because there would be no opportunity to depose the expert on the new opinions. The Special Master supported his recommendation that the plaintiff not be permitted to serve a supplemental rebuttal report by explaining that “[t]he parties have been around and around this technical mulberry bush so many times that they must be bored with the repetitive nature of their activities.” The Special Master explained further that, based on declarations filed during summary judgment briefing, the defendant was so familiar with the opinions of the plaintiff’s expert that “the defendant will have lost nothing in connection with its ability to question this particular expert witness” at trial. Id. at 3. As a result, Special Master Lukoff recommended denying the plaintiff’s request for permission to serve a supplemental rebuttal report, but recommended that the plaintiff’s expert be permitted to provide rebuttal testimony at trial. Id.
Special Master Lukoff recently considered the latest of several motions regarding expert discovery in Robocast, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., C.A. No. 11-235-RGA (D. Del. Dec. 4, 2013) (previous decisions discussed here and here). Apple moved to strike the supplemental expert report of Robocast’s damages expert, Mr. Hoffman. The expert’s original report was based in part on the opinions of another expert who had analyzed user surveys. Id. at 1. Subsequently, plaintiff withdrew this expert’s opinions, leaving Hoffman’s report “with a gap in the foundation of his own opinions.” Id. Robocast, however, did not seek the Court’s permission to issue a supplemental expert report that was untimely.
Special Master Lukoff noted that “[i]n an assessment of a relatively grey area, plaintiffs having Mr. Hoffman generate a supplemental report could be generously classified as an effort to comply with its FRCP 26(e) obligation to supplement discovery under appropriate circumstances.” Id. at 2. In this case, however, Special Master Lukoff determined that after plaintiff notified Apple that it was voluntarily withdrawing the opinions upon which Mr. Hoffman predicated a portion of his damages projection, there was no obligation to supplement the Hoffman report under Rule 26(e) “since it was crystal clear to Apple what had happened and what the loss of the [other expert’s] opinions would mean.” Id. at 3. Instead, Special Master Lukoff found that Robocast used the opportunity to add a new theory to Mr. Hoffman’s opinions that could have been contained in his original report. Id. As such, Apple’s motion was granted and Robocast’s supplemental Hoffman report was stricken.
Special Master David White recently issued a ruling granting in part and denying in part a motion to compel. Frontier Communications Corp. v. Google Inc., C.A. No. 10-545-GMS (D. Del. Dec. 6, 2013).
Special Master White first found the defendant’s identification of only two individuals who have “participated in the design, development, testing, implementation, marketing, sales, or distribution of the Accused Systems/Services” to be a deficient response to an interrogatory seeking the identification of “all persons … who have participated in ….” The Special Master agreed with the defendant that the interrogatory seeking the identifies of “all” such individuals was overbroad, but found that “the interests of both parties may be respected by requiring Google to identify those individuals who are most knowledgeable about or primarily responsible for each of the activities set forth in the Interrogatory ….” The defendant had referred the plaintiff to the defendant’s document production as a source from which the plaintiff could identify the identities of the individuals sought by the interrogatory, but the Special Master rejected that approach, since the plaintiff could not, simply by reference to the document production, “locate and identify [the relevant individuals] as readily as” the defendant could.
The parties also disputed what the appropriate number of record custodians should be searched by the defendant, with the plaintiff identifying 60 such individuals, and the defendant willing to search only 7. The Special Master found that the Default Standard was triggered by the parties’ disagreement, meaning that the defendant was required to search 10 custodians. He added, though, that “[i]n the event that Frontier is able to provide particularized information which demonstrates the need for an expanded search, the Court will consider such supplemental application, and Google’s response thereto, consistent with the standards set forth in the Federal Rules.”
Next, the Special Master endorsed the defendant’s preference for Boolean searches, but found that its proposed searches were too narrow. He ordered, as a result, that the defendant broaden its searches. Further, the plaintiff was permitted, consistent with the Default Standard, to provide the defendant with 10 additional search terms beyond the broadened Boolean searches proposed by the defendant.
The Special Master then considered a dispute over the production of the defendant’s source code. The plaintiff moved to compel the production of all of the source code of the Accused System, while the defendant’s position was that it should only be required to produce the source code related to the alleged infringement. Special Master White found that the parties had negotiated sufficient safeguards for access to source code in their protective order such that the defendant’s interest in safeguarding its source code would be protected. Accordingly, he ordered that the defendant make its source code available for review consistent with the protective order.
Special Master Lukoff recently resolved another dispute between the paries regarding their inequitable conduct experts’ reports. Robocast, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., et al., C.A. Nos. 11-235-RGA, C.A. No. 10-1055-RGA (D. Del. Oct. 24, 2013). Special Master Lukoff had previously permitted defendants to serve a supplemental expert report in response to plaintiff’s expert’s rebuttal report. Here, plaintiff requested that it be permitted to issue a supplemental rebuttal report to respond to “new opinions” in defendant’s supplemental report. Id. at 2. Plaintiff also requested that it be permitted to an additional deposition of defendant’s expert. Id. Defendants opposed plaintiff’s request because plaintiff’s expert could have addressed the issues in question before his last report. Id.
Special Master Lukoff noted that the Court’s Scheduling Order only permits service of initial and rebuttal expert reports, absent the parties’ agreement or leave of Court. Id. Because Special Master Lukoff gave leave for defendants to supplement their expert report, the court was inclined to now do the same for plaintiff, albeit reluctantly. Id. at 3. While Special Master Lukoff recognized the need for the finality that underpins the provisions of the Scheduling Order, he noted that he was “equally sensitive to a full opportunity on the merits to develop the litigants’ forensic positions on the inequitable conduct issue.” Id. at 4. Defendants identified no prejudice resulting from the additional expert report, therefore, plaintiff was permitted to serve a supplemental rebuttal report and both plaintiff and defendants were permitted additional three-hour depositions of eachother’s experts. Id. at 4-5.
Special Master Redfearn recently considered cross motions to exclude the competing expert reports of the parties in Eon Corp. IP Holdings, LLC v. Flo TV, Inc., et al. The moving defendants, several mobile carriers and mobile technology companies, sought to exclude portions of an infringement expert report that discussed (1) doctrine of equivalents theories that had not previously been asserted in infringement contentions and (2) various third party applications that had not been previously disclosed as accused products.
The Special Master noted that the doctrine of equivalents argument would be moot if the Court did not adopt defendants’ claim construction position, but that allowing the theory “to remain in [the] report does not mean that the Court will adopt the Plaintiff’s claim construction.” Eon Corp. IP Holdings, LLC v. Flo TV, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 10-812-RGA, Rulings and Recommendations at 6 (D. Del. Oct. 3, 2013). The Special Master further found that the plaintiff was not accusing the third party applications of infringement but could potentially make an appropriate reference to the software at trial, so the admissibility of the third party application references should be left to the discretion of Judge Andrews at trial. Id.
The plaintiff moved to exclude certain combinations of prior art as untimely disclosed in an invalidity expert report, arguing that it could not take discovery on those combinations at this stage of the case. The defendants pointed out, however, that the plaintiff had not previously sought discovery on any prior art combinations. Further, the Special Master found that the invalidity expert report did not include any evidence not previously disclosed and did not include any new or abandoned references. Finally, the plaintiff’s expert was able to analyze and address the combinations at issue. Id. at 7-8.
Thus, the Special Master denied both motions to exclude. Addressing the Third Circuit’s Pennypack factors, the Special Master concluded that neither party suffered any prejudice and neither side had acted in bad faith. Therefore, because “it is important that these issues be fully presented and all valid legal theories considered,” the “extreme sanction” of exclusion was not warranted. Id. at 8-9.
Special Master Lukoff recently considered Apple and Microsoft’s request to order plaintiff to produce early surveys commissioned by one of plaintiff’s experts in anticipation of issuing his expert reports. Robocast, Inc. v. Apple, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 11-235-RGA, C.A. No. 10-1055-RGA (D. Del. Sept. 18, 2013). The early surveys were conducted prior to the surveys which formed the basis of plaintiff’s expert’s opinions. Id. 1-2. The parties’ dispute hinged on the interpretation of the phrase “the facts or data considered by the witness in forming [the opinions],” found in Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(ii). Id. at 2. Plaintiff argued that production was not required because the expert did not consider those prior surveys when reaching his conclusions, and could not have considered them since the expert deleted the earlier surveys from his computer. Id. at 2. Defendants, on the other hand, argued that under Rule 26 the expert must have considered the surveys, even based only on the similarity of all the surveys. Id at 3. Moreover, defendants argued that the term “considered,” for purposes of Rule 26, has been defined by courts to mean “reviewed.” Id. “As such, a review having occured, there is no question about whether the expert had ‘considered’ the earlier surveys.” Id.
Special Master Lukoff noted that there was no reason to doubt that Plaintiff’s expert deleted the prior surveys and could not remember them when drafting his expert reports. Id. However, when construing Rule 26 “using common sense,” Special Master Lukoff determined that it would be “impossible to believe that an expert whose opinions are predicated upon the creation of a statistically-meaningful effort could have, in the statistical sense, completely ignored the data that had been previously collected by him.” Id. at 4. Ultimately, Special Master Lukoff noted that it was a close call, but, since there was “sufficient ambiguity” as to whether the prior surveys played a role in the expert’s final reports, the plaintiff was ordered to immediately produce those prior surveys (including questions and answers) to the defendants. Id. at 5-6.