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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 The court’s unpublished order is available on the court’s website in the Recent Opinions section.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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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