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Intel Corp. v. Rivers

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 12, 2019

DOYLE RIVERS, Defendant.



         This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion to compel responses to a Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 third-party subpoena. ECF No. 59. This discovery motion was referred to the undersigned pursuant to E.D. Cal. R. 302(c)(1). Plaintiff, Intel Corporation (“Intel”), and non-party Micron Technology Inc. (“Micron”) appeared at a hearing on September 11, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. ECF No. 71. For the reasons stated below, the court GRANTS plaintiff's motion in part and DENIES it in part.

         I. Relevant Background

         Intel brought this lawsuit against defendant Doyle Rivers on November 27, 2018 seeking relief for breach of contract (non-solicitation agreement), breach of contract (confidentiality agreement), and violation of the Defend Trade Secrets Act, 18, U.S.C. § 1836 et. seq. ECF No. 1 at 1. The operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), which dropped the non-solicitation agreement claim, was filed on June 10, 2019. ECF No. 53.

         The FAC alleges that Rivers is a computer hardware engineer who was involved in Intel's development of 3D XPoint, a new type of memory technology in which Intel invested over a billion dollars. ECF No. 53 at 2. The project was developed as a joint venture with Micron, but Micron and Intel are now ending their joint venture and building their own independent teams to compete in the 3D XPoint marketplace. Id. As an Intel employee, Rivers played a role in Intel's independent development of products utilizing the technology, resulting in the production of Intel proprietary systems. Id. Because of his role, Rivers had access to Intel's highly confidential, trade secret information that Intel did not share with the public or any other entity unless pursuant to a confidentiality agreement. Id.

         In September of 2018, Rivers accepted an engineering position with Micron. Id. Intel alleges that as Rivers prepared to leave Intel for Micron, he “engaged in a covert and calculated effort to collect Intel's confidential, proprietary, and trade secret technical and personnel information.” Id. The night before he left his employment with Intel, Rivers allegedly plugged a USB storage device into his Intel computer for more than an hour, from 10:40 p.m. until 11:40 p.m. Id. Intel is informed and believes that Rivers copied Intel personnel information and additional confidential Intel files onto the USB drive. Id.

         Intel alleged that Rivers went to great lengths to hide his misconduct. Id. When Intel detected his downloading of files, it sent him a letter demanding that he not destroy any evidence and that he return the USB device immediately. Id. Rivers never responded to Intel, nor did he return the device. Id. Instead, he handed the USB device over to Micron. Id. When the USB device was turned over to a forensic investigator, Intel found out that the USB device had been wiped clean. Id. Soon after, Intel was informed that Rivers would no longer be represented by counsel for his new employer but rather by his own personal counsel. Id.

         When Intel demanded an explanation from Rivers' counsel about the destruction of evidence on the USB device, Rivers' counsel confirmed that Rivers downloaded the compilation of personnel information and other documents from his Intel laptop to his USB device, uploaded some of that information to his home computer, and used his home computer to wipe the USB device. Id. Following a motion by Intel, Rivers stipulated to entry of a Temporary Restraining Order which allowed inspection of his home computer by a third-party investigator. Id. at 4. The investigation showed that Rivers had employed a suite of anti-forensic applications on his home computer and USB device designed to permanently delete and encrypt data and to conceal internet activity, and that he conducted mass file deletion on his home computer hard drive, leading the forensic inspector unable to determine what files existed in those locations previously. Id. It additionally showed that Rivers had connected 14 removable storage devices to his home computer between the time he allegedly misappropriated Intel's trade secrets and confidential information and the time he turned over his home computer to the forensic inspector for examination. Id.

         In sworn discovery responses, Rivers admitted to downloading “(1) confidential information regarding thousands of Intel employees, (2) salary and bonus information for 31 Intel Non-volatile Memory Solution Group employees - including employees Intel believes Rivers recruited to and hired at his new employer and (3) a highly sensitive, proprietary tool containing data pertaining to Intel SSD products that are still under development and have not yet been released - the same products Rivers was hired by Intel's competitor to develop.” Id. Rivers further admitted in discovery responses that he personally recruited Intel personnel to join his team at Micron using Intel confidential and/or trade secret information. Id.

         On April 12, 2019, Intel served a document subpoena (“the Subpoena”) on Micron. See Luedtke Decl. Ex. E. On April 26, 2019, Micron responded to Intel's Subpoena. See Luedtke Decl. Ex. F. Micron asserts that “[w]hen Intel alerted Micron [to Rivers' alleged misconduct] in October 2018, Micron voluntarily conducted intensive searches to determine whether Mr. Rivers had uploaded or otherwise conveyed such files (putting aside whether they contain trade secrets or not) into Micron or its computer systems. When Intel later requested that Micron conduct additional searches using a list of hundreds of file titles that Intel provided, Micron agreed. Indeed, even after Micron searched email, computers, Mr. Rivers' company phone, and other sources (as set forth at length in its detailed subpoena responses, Ex. E to Luedtke Declaration (original responses to Intel subpoena) and Ex. O to Luedtke Declaration (supplemental responses to Intel's subpoena), and the declaration at ECF 14) and found nothing, this summer Intel requested that Micron have a third party vendor perform “fuzzy hash” searches on the thesis (not based on any evidence) that Mr. Rivers perhaps changed some portion of files and then surreptitiously uploaded them. Although that fanciful theory is beyond the bounds of a third-party subpoena, Micron has agreed to do so, hiring a vendor at its own cost.” ECF No. 69 at 8. Micron argues that the “current dispute comes because even though there is no sign that Mr. Rivers uploaded a single one of the files at issue, Intel now says Micron must search the email records of at least ten of his former co-workers at Micron, and conduct even more searches in Micron's general servers that Mr. Rivers could have had theoretical access to, ” which Micron refuses to do. Id. Meet and confer efforts were largely unproductive, though on August 29, 2019, Micron did produce supplemental written discovery responses and two emails. Id. at 9. This did not resolve the dispute.

         II. Motion

         Plaintiff asks the court to compel third-party Micron to respond to several document production requests (“RFPs”), grouped as follows: (1) documents or information that Rivers may have brought to Micron (RFPs 1-4, 10); (2) communications regarding Rivers' alleged misappropriation of Intel trade secrets and confidential information (RFPs 5, 6, 11); (3) “All Documents in Micron's possession, custody, or control that match, or are similar to, the hash values of the Documents listed in Attachment 1” (RFP 7); (4) documents referring to or reflecting effort by Doyle Rivers to solicit or recruit Intel employees to work at Micron (RFP 9); and (5) documents referring or reflecting communications regarding the reasons for Rivers' departure from Micron (RFP 12). ECF No. 69. The parties adequately met and conferred before bringing this motion. Id. at 9-10.

         The requests for production at issue include, in the order in which they are addressed in the briefing, the following:

         Document Request No. 1

All non-public Intel Documents in Micron's possession, custody, or control that were provided to or obtained by Micron, directly or indirectly, from Defendant Doyle Rivers from August 1, 2018 through the present. For clarity, this includes any non-public Intel Document that Rivers uploaded to any Micron computer, server, or network or emailed to any Micron employee.

Document Request No. 2

All non-public Intel Documents in Micron's possession, custody, or control that relate to or concern any of the following categories of Intel information identified by Doyle Rivers on his Intel Trade Secret Acknowledgement Form on September 10, 2018 as categories of confidential and trade secret information to which he had access at Intel:
Intel's financial and pricing information for Intel” s Optane™ product;
Intel's customer specific pricing strategies for Optane™;
Intel's business and new product plans, objectives, and strategies for Optane™,
Intel's customer and vendor lists. contacts, habits, and plans for Optane™, including customers targets and vendors;
Intel's marketing information concerning Optane™ and strategy reviews from an engineering perspective;
Intel's Documents concerning yields, designs, efficiencies, and capabilities of production methods, facilities and systems for 3D XPoint and ...

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