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Gabriel Technologies Corporation and Trace Technologies, LLC v. Amicus Brief and Qualcomm Incorporated

March 13, 2012

GABRIEL TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION AND TRACE TECHNOLOGIES, LLC,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
AMICUS BRIEF AND QUALCOMM INCORPORATED, SNAPTRACK, INC. AND NORMAN KRASNER,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. BattagliaU.S. District Judge

ORDER OVERRULING OBJECTION [Doc. No 237]; DENYING EX PARTE MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE [Doc. No. 234]; DENYING EX PARTE MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE REPLY AND REQUEST FOR HEARING [Doc. No. 242] [Doc. Nos. 234, 237 and 242]

Plaintiffs, Gabriel Technologies Corporation and Trace Technologies, LLC filed an objection to the Order Denying Motion to Compel by Magistrate Judge Dembin on December 12, 2011. [Doc. No. 237.] Defendants filed a response to the Plaintiffs' objection. [Doc. No. 241.] Plaintiffs subsequently filed an ex parte motion for leave to file a reply and requesting a hearing on the objection. [Doc. No. 242.] In support of their Objection, Plaintiffs also filed an ex parte motion for leave to file an amicus curiae brief. [Doc. No. 234.] For the reasons set forth below, the Plaintiffs' objection, [Doc. No. 237] is OVERRULED and Plaintiffs' ex parte applications, [Doc. Nos. 234 and 242] are DENIED.

Background

The motions in the current case are the result of a lengthy discovery dispute.*fn1 Plaintiffs have sued Defendants, alleging Defendants misappropriated Plaintiffs' trade secrets which form the foundation of several of the Defendants' patents. Plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery on September 6, 2011. [Doc. No. 170.] Magistrate Judge Dembin denied Plaintiffs' motion on December 12, 2011, because Plaintiffs failed to describe their trade secrets with reasonable particularity. [Doc. No. 237.] Plaintiffs filed an Objection to the Order on January 9, 2012, arguing the Court incorrectly applied Cal. Civ. Code § 2019.210 in Federal Court. [Doc. No. 237.] In support of this objection, Plaintiffs filed an ex parte application for a motion for leave to file an amicus curiae brief by Roger Mr. Milgrim. [Doc. No. 237.] Plaintiffs also filed an ex parte motion for leave to file a reply and requesting a hearing on the objection. [Doc. No. 242.] At issue in the present order are the Plaintiffs' objection and ex parte applications.

Legal Standards

Review Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a) Magistrate judges may hear and determine pretrial matters pending before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b). Eight motions are specified within 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(a) as dispositive, and generally the remaining categories of pre-trial motions are non-dispositive. District court review of magistrate judge orders on non-dispositive motions is limited. A district judge may reconsider a magistrate judge's ruling on a non-dispositive motion only "where it has been shown that the magistrate [judge]'s order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); Grimes v. City and County of San Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 240 (9th Cir. 1991). "[T]he clearly erroneous standard applies to the magistrate judge's . . . discretionary decisions[.]" SLPR, LLC, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89247 at *4 (internal citations and quotations omitted). "Under this standard of review, a magistrate [judge]'s order is 'clearly erroneous' if, after considering all of the evidence, the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed, and the order is 'contrary to law' when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law or rules of procedure." Yent v. Baca, 2002 WL 32810316, at *2 (C.D. Cal. 2002).

Discovery orders are ordinarily considered non-dispositive because they do not have the effect of dismissing a cause of action. Maisonville v. F2 Am., Inc., 902 F.2d 746, 748 (9th Cir. 1990). Due to discovery motions' non-dispositive nature, decisions by a magistrate judge regarding the scope and nature of discovery are "afforded broad discretion." Brighton Collectibles, Inc. v. Marc Chantal USA, , 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21530, *2 (S.D. Cal. March 18, 2008). Accordingly, a district court may reconsider a magistrate judge's ruling on a discovery motion under the appropriate clearly erroneous or contrary to law standard. Under this standard, a district court overturns a magistrate judge's ruling only if the district court finds, with firm conviction, a mistake was made or that the magistrate judge misinterpreted or misapplied the appropriate law.*fn2 "This essentially amounts to an abuse of discretion standard." SLPR, LLC v. San Diego Unified Port Dist., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89247 at *4 (S.D. Cal. August 27, 2010). "The reviewing court may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court." Grimes, 951 F.2d at 241.

Discussion

Plaintiffs' object to Magistrate Judge Dembin's Order Denying Motion to Compel on two grounds. The Plaintiffs argue: (1) that the Court incorrectly applied a state law of procedure in federal court and (2) that the Court incorrectly found that Plaintiffs did not describe their trade secrets with reasonable particularity pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 2019.210. As a preliminary matter, the Court will first determine the appropriate standard of review.

Nature of the Magistrate Judge's Order

In their objections, Plaintiffs argue that the Court should review Magistrate Judge Dembin's order de novo, because it has the effect of a dispositive order. Plaintiffs contend that the "Court's rejection of Gabriel's trade secret designations would preclude any discovery into those claims and deprive Plaintiffs of vital evidence needed to prove such claims." Id. While Plaintiffs' correctly point out that the effect of the ruling needs to be analyzed in order to determine whether or not the ruling is dispositive, the Court finds Plaintiffs' analysis of Magistrate Judge Dembin's order mischaracterizes the order and applicable standard of review.

This court finds Magistrate Judge Dembin's Order Denying Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel to be a non-dispositive determination. [Doc. No. 170.] The Order denying Plaintiffs' motion to compel is not dispositive of Plaintiffs' trade secret claim, because Judge Dembin is not determining the merits of the trade secret, rather he is pointing out that the description of the trade secret has not been adequately articulated to meet the sufficient particularity standard.*fn3 [Doc. No. 229, at 8.] Pursuant to Cal. Civ. Code § 2019.210, the Plaintiffs must identify their trade secret(s) with reasonable particularity before they are entitled to discovery. It is the Plaintiffs' inability and repeated failure to articulate their trade secrets in compliance with § 2019.210, despite seven separate opportunities over the course of this case, which led to Magistrate Judge Dembin's Order denying the Plaintiff's motion to compel additional discovery.
Based upon the foregoing, the Court finds Magistrate Judge Dembin's Order is a discovery order that is non-dispositive. Maisonville v. F2 Am., Inc., 902 F.2d 746, 748 (9th Cir. 1990). Magistrate Judge Dembin's decision to deny the Plaintiff's motion to compel should be afforded broad discretion. Brighton Collectibles, Inc. v. Marc Chantal USA, Inc., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21530, *2 (S.D. Cal. March 18, 2008). Accordingly, this Court will review Magistrate Judge Dembin's Order under the clearly erroneous and contrary to law standard.*fn4 Under this standard, a district court overturns a magistrate judge's ruling only if the district court finds, with firm conviction, a mistake was made or that the magistrate judge misinterpreted or misapplied the appropriate law.

Magistrate Judge's Ruling that the Plaintiff Failed to Describe Their Trade Secrets With ...


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