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Court Limits Scope of Search Terms Requested by Plaintiff: eDiscovery Case Law

In AVM Technologies, LLC v. Intel Corp., No. 15-00033 (D. Delaware, May 3, 2016), Delaware Magistrate Judge Mary Pat Thynge granted in part the plaintiff’s request for the defendant to perform a database search of four terms and their synonyms, but limited the scope of that search to one specific defendant database, not the variety of sources requested by the plaintiff to be searched.

Case Background

In this patent infringement case where the plaintiff sued the defendant in connection with four of the defendant’s processors that the plaintiff alleged infringed upon its patent, a telephonic hearing was held in January 2016 to address a number of discovery issues.  One issue that they could not resolve was the plaintiff’s request for a database search by the defendant of the following terms: charge sharing, power race, contention and short circuits and their synonyms, which was opposed by the defendant.

Because the defendant indicated that circuits in its earlier products are the same as the circuits accused, the plaintiff argued it should not be limited to documents on which the defendant intended to rely, even though the plaintiff admitted its request would require a search from 1995 to the present and would include products that predate the patent-in-suit and are not accused of infringement.  The defendant indicated that it would take a “massive effort” required to complete the plaintiff’s requested search, indicating that it does not maintain a single or central document repository or index of its many different document repositories, does not have a single “standard” set of processor design documents nor a comprehensive text-searchable database for prior products.  However, the defendant did offer to search one database that “contains only the highest level documents relevant to a product”, indicating that it was transferring potentially searchable contents of this database to a search capable platform to perform the keyword searches requested and was working to complete this process shortly.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Thynge stated that “Nothing in AVM’s arguments suggest why the production by Intel to date is inadequate, such as how or what in that production indicates that Intel has culled or selected documents that only or primarily support its position on liability.  AVM’s contention that it is only requesting that Intel conduct a text search of the locations most likely to have relevant information is unpersuasive and does not address the significant concerns identified by Intel”, indicating that the plaintiff’s request “ignores the required balancing considerations under proportionality for discovery”.  Judge Thynge also indicated that she did not “find the four identified terms narrow as suggested by AVM and likely will result in numerous irrelevant documents.”

As a result, because the defendant offered to search one database for the four terms and synonyms, Judge Thynge ordered the defendant to “perform what is reasonably necessary to enable keyword searches” of that database for the four terms “and additional, limited synonyms for these terms of up to 12 total, as agreed to by the parties. If the parties cannot agree on the synonyms, they are to advise the court.”

So, what do you think?  Was the court correct to limit the scope of the plaintiff’s searches?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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