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Wesley Corporation v. Zoom T.V. Products, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 11, 2018

WESLEY CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
ZOOM TV. PRODUCTS, LLC, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER EXTENDING DEADLINES, GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER, AND ORDERING FURTHER BRIEFING

          ROBERT H. CLELAND, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is not the first time these parties have been before the court. In July 2015, Plaintiffs brought suit against Defendant Zoom TV Products ("Zoom TV") for patent infringement and breach of contract. See Wesley Corp. v. Zoom TV Prods., No. 15-12449 (Cleland, J.). The parties settled that case on July 22, 2016. (See Settlement Agreement Dkt. #1-1 Pg. ID 12.) The court entered a stipulated order of dismissal about a month later. See Wesley Corp., No. 15-12449, Dkt. #30.

         But Defendant Zoom TV and its marketing affiliate, Defendant Ideavillage Products Corporation ("Ideavillage"), have allegedly breached the settlement agreement. (See Dkt. #1.) They have also-along with ten John Doe Defendants- allegedly infringed on Plaintiffs' federally-registered trademark and patents since the effective date of the settlement. (Id.) Though a scheduling order was entered in this action in June, the parties have now-over five months later-brought rudimentary discovery disputes to the court. Presently before the court are three motions: a motion for protective order filed by Defendants (Dkt. #36) and two motions to compel filed by Plaintiffs (Dkt. ##41, 42). Plaintiffs responded to Defendants' motion for a protective order. (Dkt. #39.) The court held a hearing on December 12, 2017. For the following reasons, the court will extend the deadlines in this case, limit the applicable discovery period, and order further submission from Plaintiffs.

         I. STANDARD

         The scope of discovery is within the sound discretion of the court. Anwar v. Dow Chem. Co., 876 F.3d 841, 854 (6th Cir. 2017); Surles v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 474 F.3d 288, 305 (6th Cir. 2007). Unless the court limits discovery, "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         Among the court's powers to regulate discovery is the authority to "issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense" for good cause shown by the moving party. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c). "[T]o justify a protective order, one of Rule 26(c)(1)'s enumerated harms must be illustrated with a particular and specific demonstration of fact, as distinguished from stereotyped and conclusory statements." Serrano v. Cintas Corp., 699 F.3d 884, 901 (6th Cir. 2012). The party requesting a protective order must, therefore, point to facts showing that some discovery would cause annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense sufficient to justify entry of a protective order. Id.

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants ask for a protective order limiting discovery to the time after the settlement agreement took effect. According to Defendants, any information or documents from before the settlement agreement would be irrelevant. They also ask that Plaintiffs' counsel follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules when setting depositions. (Dkt. #36.) Plaintiffs, in response, argue that they are entitled to discovery covering at least some time period before the settlement agreement and propose a little over seven months' worth, as they request discovery dating back to January 1, 2016. (Dkt. #39 Pg. ID 205-06.) They also argue that they properly noticed the depositions of which Defendants complain, and they point out that Defendants failed to attach to their motion the allegedly noncompliant deposition notices.

         Plaintiffs, on the other hand, request an order compelling Defendants to produce documents in response to Plaintiffs' requests (Dkt. #42) and an order compelling Defendants to amend their interrogatory responses (Dkt. #41). To date, Defendants have not produced a single document. Instead, Defendants repeat the same objection to nearly every request for production. (See Dkt. ##42-1, 42-2.) Defendants also repeat the same objection to nearly every interrogatory. (See Dkt. ##41-1, 41-2.)

         Plaintiffs also ask the court to order Defendants to verify their interrogatory answers and verify, as to their document production, "that a diligent search has been made by the custodians for responsive documents and ESI." (Dkt. #42 Pg. ID 365.) Plaintiffs request that this latter verification include "the date of such search; the name and address of such custodian; [and a statement that] the ESI search was made in accordance with best practices for each repository[, ] including cell phones." (Id.) Defendants did not respond in briefing to these motions. At the hearing, Defendants represented that they had no responsive documents and that the appropriate verifications had been sent to Plaintiffs' counsel.

         The court addresses each of these requests in turn.

         A. Protective Order

         Defendants assert that they should not have to respond to discovery requests relating to a time before the court's entry of dismissal in the prior case. Anything prior to the entry of that dismissal, according to Defendants, would be irrelevant because Plaintiffs only seek relief "for activities of Defendants subsequent to the prior case." (Dkt. #36 Pg. ID 193.) Defendants argue that discovery should be limited to the period after the court's entry of dismissal in August 2016. It is a minor detail, but nonetheless unclear why that date would be identified and not the date of the settlement agreement, July 22. In any event, the court agrees with Plaintiffs that such a limitation is not warranted in this case.

         Defendants have not, in their one page argument, offered a "specific demonstration of fact" that discovery of information prior to the settlement agreement would cause "annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Information and documents dating before the settlement agreement are not, as Defendants would have it, inherently irrelevant. It is entirely plausible that discovery sought by Plaintiffs could provide necessary or helpful context to the settlement, or could demonstrate that Defendants never intended to abide by the settlement agreement at all. The court will not speculate on as-yet ...


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