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WI-Lan Inc. v. Lenovo (United States), Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 27, 2017

WI-LAN INC., WI-LAN USA, INC., and WI-LAN LABS, INC., Plaintiffs,
LENOVO UNITED STATES, INC., et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Mitchell D. Dembin United States Magistrate Judge.

         On February 23, 2017, Wi-LAN, Inc., Wi-LAN USA, Inc., and Wi-LAN Labs, Inc., (“Wi-LAN”) filed a complaint alleging patent infringement against Lenovo (United States), Inc., Lenovo Holding Company, Inc., Motorola Mobility, LLC, and Motorola Mobility Holdings, LLC (“Lenovo”). (ECF No. 1). Wi-LAN alleges that Lenovo infringes its U.S. Patent Nos. 8, 787, 924 (“the '924 patent”), 8, 867, 351 (“the ‘351 patent”), 9, 226, 320 (“the ‘320 patent”), and 9, 497, 743 (“the ‘743 patent”) by manufacturing, using, selling, offering to sell, and/or importing various wireless communication products without license. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 37, 45, 59, 73, 87).

         On June 16, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue or transfer to the Northern District of California. (ECF No. 39). On June 29, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant ex parte motion for leave to seek expedited discovery. (ECF No. 40). The motion was referred to this Court by the district judge. Defendants responded in opposition on July 13, 2017. (ECF No. 48). Both sides filed supplemental authority. (ECF Nos. 43, 50).

         As provided herein, Plaintiffs' Motion for Expedited Discovery is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         A. Legal Standard for Motion for Expedited Discovery

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(d) states:

A party may not seek discovery from any source before the parties have conferred as required by Rule 26(f), except in a proceeding exempted from initial disclosure under Rule 26(a)(1)(B), or when authorized by these rules, by stipulation, or by court order.

         In the instant case, Plaintiffs may obtain early discovery only by court order. In this Circuit, courts must find “good cause” to determine whether to permit discovery before the Rule 26(f) conference. Good cause exists where the need for expedited discovery, in consideration of the administration of justice, outweighs the prejudice to the responding party. See, e.g., Arista Records, LLC v. Does 1-43, Case No. 07cv2357-LAB-POR, 2007 WL 4538697, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 20, 2007). In considering whether good cause exists, factors courts may consider include "(1) whether a preliminary injunction is pending; (2) the breadth of the discovery request; (3) the purpose for requesting the expedited discovery; (4) the burden on the defendants to comply with the requests; and (5) how far in advance of the typical discovery process the request was made." Palermo v. Underground Sols., Inc., Case No. 12cv1223-WQH-BLM, 2012 WL 2106228, at *2 (S.D. Cal. June 11, 2012).

         B. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs assert that expedited discovery is necessary to address whether Defendants have a “regular and established place of business” in the Southern District of California. (ECF No. 40-1 at 5). In support, Plaintiffs claim to have independently discovered multiple Lenovo employees in the Southern District of California, “including at least one witness at the executive level.” (Id. at 7). Defendants, on the other hand, assert that Plaintiffs' arguments are “flatly contradicted” by those individuals' declarations. (ECF No. 48 at 8). As Plaintiffs note, however, counsel for Defendants conceded that even after filing their motion and declarations, they did not know how many employees Defendants have in the Southern District of California. (ECF No. 40-1 at 7).

         Plaintiffs have served eight requests for production, five interrogatories, one deposition notice under Rule 30(b)(6), and a deposition notice for Brian Siegel, Lenovo's Executive Director of Consumer Sales (who submitted a declaration in support of Lenovo's venue motion). (See ECF Nos. 40-4, 40-5, 40-6, 40-7). The scope of Plaintiffs' requests broadly include residences of Defendants' personnel; Defendants' relationships with personnel, customers, and other companies; activities in connection with any of Defendants' products; and Defendants' property. (See id.). The scope of Plaintiffs' requests are limited in time from July 22, 2014, the earliest issue date of the patents-in-suit, to present. (ECF No. 40-1 at 9. See 40-5 at 6). Plaintiffs' requests are limited in place to the Southern District of California. (See ECF Nos. 40-4, 40-5, 40-6).

         Defendants claim that much of the information Plaintiffs request is “irrelevant” to establishing venue, citing Logantree LP v. Garmin Int'l, Inc., Case No. SA-17-CA-0098-FB, 2017 WL 2842870 (W.D. Tex. June 22, 2017) (Biery, F.). (ECF No. 48 at 6). Defendants' reliance on Logantree is misguided. While the court in Logantree rules that certain contacts in a district do not individually establish venue, it does not address whether such contacts, individually or collectively, are irrelevant to a question of venue. This Court finds that the information Plaintiffs request, subject to the limitations set out below, is relevant to establishing venue.

         The Court finds good cause for strictly limited expedited discovery as Plaintiffs have demonstrated that the need for some expedited discovery outweighs the prejudice to Defendants in having to respond to limited discovery at this ...

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