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Adema Technologies, Inc. v. Wacker Chemie AG

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 16, 2013



PAUL S. GREWAL, Magistrate Judge.

Before the court is Plaintiff Adema Technologies, Inc.'s administrative motion to file the supply agreement it shared with Defendant Wacker Chemie AG ("Wacker") under seal. After reviewing Defendants' supporting declaration, the court GRANTS Adema's motion.


A. Sealing Motions

"Historically, courts have recognized a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents.'"[1] Accordingly, when considering a sealing request, "a strong presumption in favor of access' is the starting point."[2] Parties seeking to seal judicial records relating to dispositive motions bear the burden of overcoming the presumption with "compelling reasons" that outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure.[3]

Records attached to nondispositive motions, however, are not subject to the strong presumption of access.[4] Because the documents attached to nondispositive motions "are often unrelated, or only tangentially related, to the underlying cause of action, " parties moving to seal must meet the lower "good cause" standard of Rule 26(c).[5] As with dispositive motions, the standard applicable to nondispositive motions requires a "particularized showing"[6] that "specific prejudice or harm will result" if the information is disclosed.[7] "Broad allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples of articulated reasoning" will not suffice.[8]

"Under the Ninth Circuit's jurisprudence in Kamakana, a request to seal all or part of a complaint must clearly meet the compelling reasons' standard and not the good cause' standard. While a complaint is not, per se, the actual pleading by which a suit may be disposed of, it is the root, the foundation, the basis by which a suit arises and must be disposed of."[9] When "a plaintiff invokes the Court's authority by filing a complaint, the public has a right to know who is invoking it, and towards what purpose, and in what manner."[10] At least one court has held that exhibits attached to the complaint must also meet the compelling reasons standard.[11]

Parties moving to seal documents must comply with the procedures established by Civil L.R. 79-5. Pursuant to Civil L.R. 79-5(b), a sealing order is appropriate only upon a request that establishes the document is "sealable, " or "privileged or protectable as a trade secret or otherwise entitled to protection under the law." "The request must be narrowly tailored to seek sealing only of sealable material, and must conform with Civil L.R. 79-5(d)."[12] "Within 4 days of the filing of the Administrative Motion to File Under Seal, the Designating Party must file a declaration as required by subsection 79-5(d)(1)(A) establishing that all of the designated material is sealable."[13]


A. The Supply Agreement

The Supply Agreement dated March, 13, 2007, is "a long-term supply agreement in which Wacker agreed to supply polysilicon" to Plaintiff.[14] The contract claims in this case are based upon the underlying agreement that is the subject of this motion. Thus, the agreement is subject to the compelling reasons standard. Nonetheless, the supplemental declaration demonstrates why sealing the agreement is warranted. "Wacker has entered into, and intends to enter into, other agreements for the supply of polysilicon with other entities in the United States and around the world. Both the structure and the terms of the Supply Agreement are considered highly confidential commercial information by Wacker. Wacker has only disclosed its supply agreements to customers with the protection of a confidentiality agreement and to government authorities when required and with as much protection from public disclosure as possible."[15]

After reviewing the agreement in light of Defendants' supporting declaration, the court is convinced that sealing is warranted.


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