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U, Inc. v. Shipmate, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 19, 2015

SHIPMATE, INC., et al., Defendants.


TERESA J. JAMES, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (ECF No. 100). Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, Plaintiff asks the Court to overrule the objections and order Defendant ShipMate, Inc. to provide answers responsive to Plaintiff U, Inc.'s First Interrogatories to ShipMate and produce documents responsive to Plaintiff U, Inc.'s First Request for Production of Documents to ShipMate, Inc. ShipMate opposes the motion. As set forth below, ShipMate's objections to the discovery requests are overruled and Plaintiff's motion is granted.

I. Relevant Background

On April 14, 2015, the Court held a telephone conference with counsel to discuss an email message that Plaintiff's counsel submitted prior to filing a motion to compel, along with ShipMate's response thereto.[1] The Court agreed to construe Plaintiff's email as a motion to compel, and set an expedited briefing schedule for the parties to file supplemental briefs. The Court found that the parties have complied with their Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(1)(1) and D. Kan. R. 37.2 obligations to confer.[2]

Plaintiff served its First Interrogatories and First Request for Production of Documents on Defendant ShipMate on January 5, 2015.[3] ShipMate had produced no documents until the Court ordered that, by the close of business on April 15, 2015, ShipMate was to deliver to Plaintiff all non-privileged responsive documents it had agreed to produce.[4] Plaintiff received the first responsive documents on or near April 16. Since that date, the Court is not aware that ShipMate has produced any additional documents.

Pursuant to the briefing schedule the Court set, Plaintiff filed its supplemental memorandum (ECF No. 100) on April 21, 2015.[5] ShipMate filed its response (ECF No. 104) on May 1, 2015, and Plaintiff filed its reply (ECF No. 111) on May 6, 2015. ShipMate has posed objections to every discovery request.

Plaintiff requests in its motion that the Court order ShipMate to answer the 31 interrogatories it propounded and to produce documents responsive to its 23 requests for production. Throughout counsel's written exchange since Plaintiff served its discovery requests, ShipMate has not withdrawn any of its objections. Accordingly, the Court has examined those objections and Plaintiff's responses thereto. The Court is now prepared to rule on the disputes at issue in Plaintiff's motion to compel.

II. Summary of the Parties' Arguments

Plaintiff brought this action against Defendants ShipMate and the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair ("CCAR"), alleging that they misappropriated Plaintiff's electronically stored confidential and propriety trade secret information, specifically Plaintiff's customer and prospective customer information. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants knowingly and with intent to defraud Plaintiff accessed, downloaded and used Plaintiff's information for their own business purposes. Plaintiff and CCAR had a license agreement granting CCAR limited authorized use of Plaintiff's information, which Plaintiff alleges CCAR breached by downloading and disclosing the information to ShipMate. Plaintiff asserts claims against ShipMate for violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, misappropriation of trade secrets, false advertising, interference with current and prospective business advantage, and trademark infringement.[6]

In its Answer, ShipMate raises a number of affirmative defenses including unclean hands, fair use, failure to mitigate, laches, estoppel, and license.[7] ShipMate also denies that CCAR had any authority, actual or apparent, to act for ShipMate in any capacity at any relevant time.[8] Plaintiff asserts that it is entitled to the discovery it propounded to test the basis of ShipMate's affirmative defenses and ShipMate's claim that CCAR had no authority to act on its behalf.

ShipMate argues that it should not be required to produce information going back to 2007 because the parties' business relationship did not begin to deteriorate until October, 2013, thereby rendering both irrelevant and unduly burdensome the request for documents from six years earlier. ShipMate recently amended its Rule 26 disclosures to omit any reference to Plaintiff's alleged infringement of ShipMate's copyrights and trademarks, which ShipMate contends makes discovery on any such infringement wholly irrelevant.[9] As for information relating to CCAR, ShipMate asserts that documents going back to 2007 are irrelevant because Plaintiff's claims against CCAR deal with issues that arose in 2013, and that Plaintiff should seek such documents directly from CCAR and not from ShipMate.

III. Whether the Discovery Sought is Relevant and Discoverable

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) sets out the general scope of discovery. It provides that the parties "may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter."[10] Relevancy is broadly construed, and a request for discovery should be allowed "unless it is clear that the information sought can have no possible bearing" on the claim or defense of a party.[11] Furthermore, "the touchstone of the relevancy of documents and information requested is not whether the discovery will result in evidence that is, or even may be, admissible at trial, but rather whether the discovery is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.'"[12] "For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action."[13]

When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevancy as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevancy that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.[14] Conversely, when the relevancy of the discovery request is not readily apparent on its face, the party seeking the ...

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