A growing number of judges around the country are becoming wary of litigants that appear to be abusing the discovery process, and in effect driving up the cost of patent litigation.  Clamping down on such practices appears to be the impetus behind one recent discovery order in the District of Massachusetts, scolding a litigant for its boilerplate discovery responses.  The case involved an individual plaintiff, Maureen Reddy, the owner of a design patent directed towards bathroom vanity light shades that can be installed with only a screwdriver.  Reddy sued Evolution Lighting, a designer, manufacturer, and distributor of lighting products, and Lowe’s, the home improvement store, for patent infringement.

After receiving from Evolution what she believed to be insufficient answers to her document discovery requests and interrogatory requests, including several boilerplate responses, Reddy asked the court for relief.  The discovery responses at issue included statements representing that Evolution had produced documents, “sufficient to show” or “falling within the scope” of the information requested.

In her order, Judge Indira Talwani noted that statements of this sort fall far short of fulfilling Evolution’s duty to respond to discovery requests:

“Evolution’s duty to produce relevant documents is not satisfied by the production of some subset of documents that ‘fall within the scope’ of a request or that it has unilaterally determined are ‘sufficient to show’ the information Plaintiff seeks …. Evolution must produce all documents within their possession that are responsive to Plaintiff’s request and as to which Defendant Evolution has not objected.” 

Moreover, the judge criticized Evolution for objecting to each of Reddy’s document requests as “overly broad” and “unduly burdensome.”  A blanket objection of this sort was not sufficient because, according to the judge, it failed “to clearly delineate what issues, if any, remain in dispute.”  Accordingly, Judge Talwani’s order required Evolution to supplement its response and to identify the documents it is producing with specificity, e.g., by stating that it is producing invoices within a specific time period.  This would allow Reddy to then determine whether what was produced is sufficient, and if not, petition for more.

Importantly, Judge Talwani did not object in principle to Evolution’s desire to limit its document productions. Rather, the judge required Evolution to explain clearly to Reddy how and why it limited its document production, so that Reddy could more easily identify and seek resolution of any areas of dispute.

The case is Reddy v. Lowe’s Companies, Inc. and Evolution Lighting, Inc., Civil Action No. 13-cv-13016-IT, and pending in the District of Massachusetts.