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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute v. Apple Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 8, 2014

RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
APPLE INC., Defendant.

PAUL J. SKIERMONT, ESQ., AMY E. LaVALLE, ESQ., DONALD E. TILLER, ESQ., LENNY HUANG, ESQ., ALEXANDER E. GASSER, ESQ., SKIERMONT PUCKETT LLP, Dallas, TX, NICHOLAS MESITI, ESQ., HESLIN ROTHENBERG FARLEY & MESITI P.C., Albany, NY, JAMES R. MULDOON, ESQ., STEVEN P. NONKES, ESQ., HARRIS BEACH PLLC, Syracuse, NY, for Plaintiffs.

TERESA M. CORBIN, ESQ., HECTOR J. RIBERA, ESQ., RYAN J. MARTON, ESQ., DAVID M. LACY KUSTERS, ESQ., WILLIAM A. MOSELEY, JR., ESQ., FENWICK & WEST LLP, San Francisco, CA, MITCHELL J. KATZ, ESQ., MENTER, RUDIN & TRIVELPIECE, P.C., Syracuse, NY, for Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID E. PEEBLES, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiffs Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ("RPI") and Dynamic Advances, LLC ("Dynamic") have sued defendant Apple Inc. ("Apple") for patent infringement. In their complaint, plaintiffs accuse Apple of infringing United States Patent No. 7, 177, 798 (the "'798 Patent"), entitled "Natural Language Interface Using Constrained Intermediate Dictionary of Results, " through implementation of Siri, the personal assistant available on various Apple devices, and specifically Siri's natural language input processing functionality.

Currently before the court is plaintiffs' request for court intervention regarding seven distinct discovery-related issues. In their motion, plaintiffs challenge (1) the printing and copying limitations of Apple's source code contained within the governing protective order; (2) the existing definition of "source code" set forth in the protective order; (3) the provision in the protective order governing designation of documents as "source code"; (4) Apple's refusal to produce all requested Siri source code for inspection; (5) the sufficiency of Apple's response to an interrogatory propounded by the plaintiffs concerning Siri's function and source code; (6) Apple's alleged improper designation of required disclosures under the court's local patent rules; and (7) Apple's position as to the scope of a deposition to be taken of its records custodian. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

This action was commenced on June 3, 2013.[1] On April 3, 2013, at the joint request of the parties, the court issued a protective order, pursuant to Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, accompanied by an order governing electronic discovery. The protective order placed strict parameters on plaintiffs' review of Apple source code, requiring that such materials be made available for inspection at Apple's offices, under supervision, on secured, stand-alone computers, with limited ability of plaintiffs' representations to take notes or otherwise replicate the source code. Id. Under the agreement, plaintiffs are permitted to print limited source code excerpts "only when reasonably necessary to prepare court filings or pleadings or other papers (including a testifying expert's report)." The order presumes that the printing of either more than ten pages of a continuous block of source code, or in excess of 200 pages in total, is excessive. The order further specifies that, in the event plaintiffs believe that the page limits set forth in the protective order are unduly burdensome, they must negotiate in good faith with Apple to resolve the dispute prior to raising the issue with the court.

In October 2013, plaintiffs reviewed four versions of the Siri Natural Language Processing ("NLP") source code, comprised of over 46, 000 files and 62, 000 directories, and containing more than 17 million lines of code. One of those versions, identified as "903, " contained nearly 10, 000 files alone, distributed over more than 13, 000 directories, and contained more than two million lines of code. Apple's attorneys have informed plaintiffs' counsel that yet another version of the server-side Siri NLP source code, corresponding to the newest operating system, is now available for inspection.

During the course of discovery, plaintiffs propounded a first set of interrogatories. One of those interrogatories requested the following information:

INTERROGATORY NO. 2:

Identify each of Siri's functional blocks involved in any task performed as part of Siri's natural language processing function, including Siri's natural language interface function, including by listing: the name, code name, nickname, or other identifier of the functional block; the name of every data structure, object, method, property, library, function, procedure, or other pertinent block of source code that is an instance, implementation, description, or definition of all or a portion of the functional block; for each source code file that includes an instance, implementation, description, or definition of the functional block, the location of the pertinent block of source code within each file; and each document (by production number) that contains a full or partial description of the functional block.

Apple responded as follows:

RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 2:

Apple incorporates by reference its General Objections as if fully set forth herein. Apple objects to this Interrogatory to the extent it calls for production of confidential or proprietary information. Apple objects to this Interrogatory to the extent it seeks discovery of information protected by the attorney-client privilege, work product immunity, or any other applicable privilege or protection. Apple objects to this Interrogatory to the extent that it seeks discovery that is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive, including, but not limited to, information that is publicly available and information sought in response to other discovery requests. Apple objects to this Interrogatory as overly broad to the extent it seeks information that is not relevant to the claims or defenses asserted in this litigation or the subject matter of this litigation, or that is not reasonably expected to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. In particular, Apple objects to this Interrogatory as overbroad, burdensome, vague, ambiguous and unintelligible in general and in particular to the extent that it seeks the identification of all documents that contain a ...

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