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Federal Bar Update: Permissible fishing in discovery process

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Most discovery orders are uninteresting and have little or no significance beyond the dispute between the parties. The Southern District of Indiana’s order in Eli Lilly and Co. v. Wockhardt Limited, et al., No. 1:08-cv-01547 (S.D. Ind. May 27, 2010) (Baker, M.J.), however, is both interesting and has potential broader significance. The court’s unpublished order is available on the court’s website in the Recent Opinions section.

The case was brought by Lilly alleging patent infringement, and the patent discovery issues would be best understood by and most relevant to patent litigators. For the rest of us with average IQs, there are some broader points of relevance.

First, the order teaches that discovery is broad and in some respects a permissible fishing expedition. In granting in part Lilly’s motion to compel, the court wrote: “What’s a high-stakes patent case without a fierce discovery dispute and cries of an unfair ‘fishing expedition’? This case does not disappoint. Defendants … claim that Plaintiff Eli Lilly and Company caught its fair share of discovery documents and needs to return to shore. Lilly wants to fish a little deeper.”

After analyzing various specific issues, the court ultimately concluded, “This case brings to mind Eli Lilly and Company v. InvaGen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 1:09-cv-87-WTL-TAB (S.D. Ind. Sept. 17, 2009), in which cries of a ‘fishing expedition’ also were made. In addressing this concern, the Court observed that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow courts to ‘determine the pond, the type of lure, and how long the parties can leave their lines in the water.’”

Second, the order indicates that sometimes throwing more resources at discovery is necessary. The court observed, “Lilly stresses that Wockhardt has produced only 17,000 pages of documents to Lilly’s 3.5 million, and that Wockhardt’s production is lacking in emails and PowerPoints and devoid of research reports and laboratory notebooks – documents that Lilly claims are relevant to the issues of infringement, induced infringement, and nonobviousness.”

In addressing and rejecting defendants’ “undue burden” arguments, the court then explained, “The foregoing rulings are made with due regard to Wockhardt’s concern that additional production would be unduly burdensome. Discovery in a high-stakes patent infringement case is not without its burdens. Lilly indicated at the … pretrial conference that it allocated significant resources – nearly 60 attorneys and millions of dollars – to responding to Wockhardt’s discovery requests. Wockhardt, on the other hand, has produced only thirty emails and few of the PowerPoints and other documents that are ubiquitous in this type of case. Of course, discovery – unlike some fishing – is not a contest, and Wockhardt need not engage 60 attorneys in a multimillion dollar document production. But Wockhardt will need to allocate more resources toward responding to Lilly’s discovery requests. In this case, that is not an unreasonable burden.”

Finally, regarding Lilly’s contention interrogatories seeking defendant’s basis for its defense that each claim of its patent is invalid, the court rejected defendant’s argument that it should be allowed to await the close of discovery to answer the interrogatories. The court explained, “Wockhardt must answer Lilly’s interrogatory nos. 7 and 10 in good faith and may supplement its responses as it is able to digest Lilly’s large production. Within 28 days of this order, Wockhardt must provide Lilly with at least its basis for raising the defense identified in interrogatory no. 7 and the counterclaim identified in interrogatory no. 10, and Wockhardt must supplement its responses in good faith as discovery progresses.”•

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John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg litigating federal and state matters nationally. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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  1. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  2. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  3. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  4. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  5. I totally agree with John Smith.

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