eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Vendors Are Not Immune to eDiscovery Sanctions – eDiscovery Case Law

In Nuance Communications Inc. v. Abbyy Software House et al., no 3:08-cv-02912 (N.D. Cal. May 22, 2013), California District Judge Jeffrey S. White refused Wednesday to dismiss Nuance Communications Inc.’s patent infringement suit against Lexmark International Inc. and Abbyy Software House, and awarded reimbursement of plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees and costs in excess of $130,000 as part of discovery abuse sanctions resulting from the late production of relevant documents from Abbyy.

In this patent infringement case, this order addressed motions for summary judgment filed by both defendants as well as a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs as part of discovery sanctions filed by the plaintiff.  Judge White found that “these matters are appropriate for disposition without oral argument” and vacated the hearing scheduled two days later to discuss them.

Despite the fact that the plaintiff “went so far as to congratulate ABBYY’s top management on the product” upon its release, “and only sued on the alleged infringement six years later, after the products were already off the market”, Judge White did not find that the “congratulatory e-mail, as a matter of law, establishes that Nuance was both aware of and acquiesced to ABBYY’s packaging, thereby entitling ABBBY to the defense of acquiescence or laches.”  As a result, he denied Abbyy’s motion for summary judgment on the trade dress claims.

With regard to the motions for summary judgment filed by both defendants regarding patent claims, Judge White found “that there remain questions of fact regarding each of the patent infringement claims which preclude the Court from granting either defendant ABBYY’s or Lexmark’s motions for summary judgment”, so those motions were also denied.

As for the plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs as part of discovery abuse sanctions resulting from the late production of relevant documents from Abbyy, while Abbyy claimed that the production due to “satisfaction of Nuance’s multiple other discovery requests seeking massive amounts of irrelevant information”, Judge White did not find the delay in production justified.  He also noted that Abbyy’s “late production required the extension of time for discovery and Nuance’s retaking of many depositions which had been completed prior to the original close of discovery”. Because of this, he ruled that “sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 are justified for the expense Nuance incurred in the retaking of otherwise-completed depositions once the Court re-opened discovery due to the late disclosures.”

As a result, Abbyy was ordered to pay $14,544.94 in costs and $120,068.57 in fees (a total of $134,613.51) within 30 days of the order to reimburse the plaintiff for the amount incurred “after the re-opening of discovery due to the late production”.

So, what do you think?  Were the sanctions warranted?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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