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Lufthansa Technik Ag v. Astronics Corporation

September 7, 2011

LUFTHANSA TECHNIK AG, PETITIONER,
v.
ASTRONICS CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard J. Arcara United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is a petition by Lufthansa Technik AG ("Lufthansa") for discovery in aid of foreign litigation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782. Lufthansa currently is suing a Washington State company named Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems ("AES") in Germany for patent infringement. Although the German court has not requested any discovery, Lufthansa seeks discovery in this case from respondent Astronics Corporation ("Astronics"), a company in East Aurora, New York that is the parent company of AES. At the same time, Lufthansa seeks the same discovery from AES itself in a case currently pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. See In re Lufthansa Technik AG, No. 11-CV-01386-JCC (W.D. Wa.) (the "Washington Case"). Here, Astronics opposes any granting of discovery as unduly broad and burdensome and as an attempt to circumvent German court procedures.

The Court held oral argument on September 1, 2011. For the reasons below, the Court finds that this case is duplicative of the Washington Case and dismisses the petition sua sponte, pursuant to its inherent authority to administer its docket.

II. BACKGROUND

This case is an offshoot of ongoing litigation in Germany concerning allegations of patent infringement. Lufthansa is a German corporation involved in manufacturing and maintenance services for the civil aviation industry. Lufthansa owns a patent that bears European Patent No. EP 881 145 and German publication No. DE 598 10 238 (the "Patent"). Without delving into technical details, the Patent outlines the technology for a power supply that manufacturers can install in the passenger cabin of commercial aircraft. The power supply would give commercial airline passengers standard household electrical outlets and voltage that they can use to power electronic devices in-flight. As a unique safety feature, the electrical outlets would not deliver any power unless both prongs of a plug enter the socket simultaneously. This safety feature reduces the risk of electrical shock that might result if passengers, particularly children, inserted objects into the socket intentionally or by accident. On December 29, 2010, Lufthansa commenced the German litigation because it believes that AES is selling power supplies to the airline industry that infringe on the Patent. The German court hearing the case held a hearing recently and is expected to issue a ruling around mid-October. Meanwhile, AES has commenced a nullity proceeding in a separate German court to challenge the validity of the Patent. Lufthansa has until November 15, 2011 to respond in that action.

On July 22, 2011, Lufthansa commenced both this case and the Washington Case to try to obtain discovery that it would submit to the German infringement court in support of its infringement claims. The German infringement court has not requested any discovery. Nonetheless, Lufthansa believes that the German infringement court will accept documentary evidence that Lufthansa can obtain from AES and Astronics. In both this case and the Washington Case, Lufthansa submitted proposed subpoenas that detailed the discovery that it sought. To highlight the identical nature of the proposed subpoenas from each case, the Court has taken the 14 paragraphs from each proposed subpoena and placed them side-by-side below:

Para. No. This Case Washington Case (Dkt. No. 1-4 at 5--6) (Case No. 11-CV-01386-JCC, Dkt. No. 1 at 20--21)

1 For all of Your Power Outlet For all of Your Power Outlet

Systems offered for sale from Systems offered for sale from November 26, 2003 to the November 26, 2003 to the present, please produce all present, please produce all Component Maintenance Component Maintenance Manuals and associated Manuals and associated Illustrated Parts Catalogs. This Illustrated Parts Catalogs. This request is intended to describe request is intended to describe Documents that would be Documents that would be requested during a standard requested during a standard aviation quality audit process aviation quality audit process and includes information that is and includes information that is maintained in accordance with maintained in accordance with applicable FAA regulations, applicable FAA regulations, e.g., 14 C.F.R. Part 145. e.g., 14 C.F.R. Part 145.

2 Documents sufficient to show Documents sufficient to show the manufacturing details for all the manufacturing details for all of Your Power Outlet Systems of Your Power Outlet Systems offered for sale from November offered for sale from November 26, 2003 to the present, 26, 2003 to the present, including without limitation including without limitation technical drawings, electrical technical drawings, electrical circuit diagrams, production circuit diagrams, production cards, and testing documents cards, and testing documents regarding acceptance test regarding acceptance test procedures. This request is procedures. This request is intended to describe Documents intended to describe Documents that would be requested during that would be requested during a standard aviation quality audit a standard aviation quality audit process and includes process and includes information that is maintained in information that is maintained in accordance with parts and accordance with parts and appliance production obligations appliance production obligations according to FAA regulations, according to FAA regulations, e.g., 14 C.F.R. Part 21-G. e.g., 14 C.F.R. Part 21-G.

3 Documents sufficient to show Documents sufficient to show the certification of parts for all of the certification of parts for all of Your Power Outlet Systems Your Power Outlet Systems offered for sale from November offered for sale from November 26, 2003 to the present, 26, 2003 to the present, including without limitation including without limitation testing conditions, qualifications, testing conditions, qualifications, safety controls, safety controls, Communications with aircraft Communications with aircraft authorities, safety assessments, authorities, safety assessments, failure modes and effects failure modes and effects analysis ("FMEA"), qualification analysis ("FMEA"), qualification test plans, qualification test test plans, qualification test reports, and external expert reports, and external expert statements. This request is statements. This request is intended to describe Documents intended to describe Documents that would be requested during that would be requested during a standard certification process a standard certification process and includes information that is and includes information that is maintained in accordance with maintained in accordance with applicable FAA regulations, applicable FAA regulations, e.g., 14 C.F.R. Part 21-J. e.g., 14 C.F.R. Part 21-J.

4 Documents sufficient to show Documents sufficient to show each sale of each of Your each sale of each of Your Power Outlet Systems from Power Outlet Systems from November 26, 2003 to the November 26, 2003 to the present. You may produce a present. You may produce a summary of this data in an summary of this data in an Excel spreadsheet or Excel spreadsheet or comparable electronic format. comparable electronic format.

5 Documents sufficient to show Documents sufficient to show each offer for sale of each of each offer for sale of each of Your Power Outlet Systems Your Power Outlet Systems that did not result in a sale from that did not result in a sale from ...


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