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Straight Path IP Group, Inc. v. Cisco Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

June 19, 2017

STRAIGHT PATH IP GROUP, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE: ECF NO. 61

          LAUREL BEELER United States Magistrate Judge.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a patent-infringement case involving patents that “concern a system and method for enabling point-to-point communications between running computer applications connected to the same computer network, including applications that allow ‘realtime video conferencing' or other ‘point-to-point communications in realtime of voice and video.'”[1] In this case (one of three related cases), Straight Path IP Group sued Cisco Systems for infringing three such patents: United States Patent Nos. 6, 009, 469; 6, 131, 121; and 6, 701, 365.[2]

         The district judge referred all discovery matters to the undersigned.[3] The parties filed a discovery letter brief to raise issues concerning Cisco's interrogatory responses.[4] More specifically, Straight Path asserts that Cisco improperly limited its responses to only a few accused products and direct infringement (omitting responses for alleged indirect infringement); Cisco urges that it provided all relevant discovery for the products and liability theories alleged in the infringement contentions. Beneath the surface-level discovery dispute, though, the parties argue principally about whether Straight Path's infringement contentions adequately identify the accused products and alleged indirect infringement.

         The court held a hearing on June 15, 2017. As discussed at the hearing, the court thinks these issues are best resolved through fully briefed motions.

         ANALYSIS

         1. Accused Products

         Straight Path asserts that “Cisco has improperly limited its responses to Interrogatories 1 and 4-7 to address only a few of the accused products.”[5] Those accused products, according to Straight Path, include parts of Cisco's Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”), such as its Unified Communications Solutions (“UCS”).[6] UCS contains subcomponents that “are designed to work together as a unit, ” but Straight Path urges that: (1) it identified UCS as an accused product in its infringement contentions, and so Cisco's interrogatory responses must include it; and (2) in any event - even if UCS is not a “product” - Cisco cherry-picked specifically identified products (e.g. UCS subcomponents) when responding to Straight Path's interrogatories.[7] Straight Path asserts that it adequately identified the accused products, including UCS generally, and, more specifically, a number of UCS subproducts.[8]

         Cisco says, however, that Straight Path's infringement contentions too broadly defined the accused products as Cisco's VoIP products, such as UCS, “including servers, phones, IP phones, video conference and telepresence products, and related hardware and software.”[9] Cisco maintains that UCS “is a marketing term used to describe an umbrella of customizable solutions using any number of products and not a product itself.”[10] It asserts that (1) Straight Path's claims charts “provide element-by-element infringement theories for [only] three products” - Cisco's 9971 IP Phone, Video Communication Server (“VCS”), and Unified Communications Manager (“UCM”); (2) it provided all relevant discovery for those three products; and (3) it “could not have guessed which [other] products Straight Path intended to accuse under the UCS umbrella.”[11] (Straight Path has not disputed that Cisco provided discovery for those products.)

         The core issue here - and necessarily a preliminary one - is the scope or interpretation of Straight Path's infringement contentions. Specifically, the issue is whether Straight Path's contentions adequately identify as accused products (1) Cisco's UCS as a product itself, or (2) UCS subcomponents beyond the 9971 IP Phone, VCS, and UCM. In its cover disclosures, Straight Path defined the accused products as Cisco's VoIP products such as UCS, “including servers, phones, IP phones, video conference and telepresence products, and related hardware and software, ” and said the products “infringe in the manner asserted with particularity in Exhibits A- D.”[12] Those exhibits (Straight Path's claims charts) refer generally to Cisco's “VoIP Products, ” and (at least for some claims) specifically list examples of certain infringing products:

• “As one particular example, Cisco develops and sells phones, such as the Cisco Unified IP Phone 9971, and VoIP servers, such as the Cisco Unified Communications Manager (also known as the CallManager).”[13]
• “As another example, Cisco's VoIP Products include the Cisco Business Edition 6000, which is a ‘Simple IP Phone System Plus Much More.”[14]
• “Yet another example of Cisco's VoIP Products are its Cloud and Hybrid Collaboration Solutions, which provide cloud- and hybrid-based unified communication services ...

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