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Gerawan Farming, Inc v. Rehrig Pacific Company

January 30, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge



Currently before the Court is the Motion of Rehig Pacific Company ("Rehig") to compel further responses from Gerawan Farming, Inc. ("Gerawan") to Rehig's First Set of Interrogatories and First Request for Production of Documents and Things. (Doc. 42.) The parties each filed separate "joint" discovery statements on January 25, 2013. *fn1 (Doc. 45, 46.)

The Court deemed the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and vacated the hearing scheduled for February 1, 2013. Having considered the joint statements of the parties, as well as the Court's file, Rehig's Motion to Compel further responses is GRANTED.


A. Factual Background

Gerawan is in the business of producing and distributing fresh produce. In the summer of 1994, Gerawan and Rehrig, a manufacturer of plastic-molded containers for industrial use, reached an agreement to patent, manufacture, and sell the "Harvest Tote," a container for holding stone fruits such as peaches during harvesting (the "Harvest Tote Agreement"). During the parties' collaboration on the Harvest Tote in 1993, Rehrig unilaterally filed a patent application for U.S. Patent No. 5,415,293, entitled "Grape Lug" (the "293 Patent"). The 293 Patent, while conceptually similar to the Harvest Tote, relates to a container used for harvesting, storing, and transporting grapes. Gerawan claims Rehig's 293 Patent includes one or more claims to which Gerawan made an innovative contribution. However, Gerawan was not listed as a joint inventor and did not receive any royalties from the Grape Lug.

Both parties operated under the Harvest Tote Agreement, and Rehrig paid Gerawan for sales of the Harvest Tote from 1995 through 2002, with the last royalty check being made to Gerawan in February 2003. Sometime in 2001-2002, Rehig began manufacturing and selling a "Second Generation Harvest Tote," without Gerawan, which was allegedly derived from the design of the original Harvest Tote. The parties dispute whether Gerawan was intended to be involved in the Second Generation Harvest Tote.

B. Procedural Background

Gerawan initiated this action on July 29, 2011. (Doc. 1.) Gerawan asserted eight causes of action: (1) correction of inventorship under 35 U.S.C. § 256; (2) conversion; (3) unfair competition in violation of California Business and Professional Code Section 17200 et seq. ; (4) unjust enrichment; (5) concealment; (6) false promise; (7) unfair competition in violation of 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a); and (8) accounting. (Doc. 1.)

On December 9, 2011, Rehrig filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 11.) On March 2, 2012, the Court dismissed all of Gerawan's claims, *fn2 except for Gerawan's first cause of action for correction of inventorship under 35 U.S.C. § 256. *fn3

(Doc. 25.)

Gerawan filed an amended complaint on March 23, 2012. (Doc. 26.) Gerawan's first claim seeks correction of inventorship of the '293 Patent to include Ray Gerawan, the founder of Gerawan. Rehrig disputes that Gerawan or Ray Gerawan contributed anything to the invention of the '293 Patent. Gerawan's second claim is for false promise, alleging that Rehrig promised Gerawan in 1993 that: (1) the parties would co-own any patents resulting from the Harvest Tote; (2) Rehrig would not use any proprietary materials provided by Gerawan for any purpose other than making the Harvest Tote for Gerawan, and (3) Rehrig supposedly used that proprietary information to make the second generation harvest tote. Rehrig disputes any such promise was made. Gerawan's third claim is for a violation of California Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq ., which is a cause of action for unfair business practices. This claim is derivative of the other two, and is based on the same facts. *fn4

C. Rehig's Motion to Compel

Rehrig served its Interrogatories and Requests for Production on October 31, 2012. Gerawan asked for an extension of time to respond, which Rehrig granted. On December 14, 2012, Gerawan served their written objections and responses. No documents were produced with Gerawan's objections and responses. The responses said Gerawan would produce documents, but did not specify when. Rehig also alleges that despite Gerawan's claim that some of the documents were privileged, no privilege log was produced. Rehig also argues Gerawan's interrogatory responses contained improper objections and were otherwise evasive.

Gerawan generally responds that they have produced responsive documents to Rehig's requests, that production continues as documents are discovered, and that Gerawan agreed to provide supplemental responses and productions to Rehig. Gerawan ...

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