Auburn University v. International Business Machines, Corp.

Filing 122

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that Auburn show cause in writing on or before 10/18/2010 as to why its opening claim-construction briefs and exhibits thereto should be filed under seal, as further set out in order. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 10/14/2010. (wcl, )

Download PDF
-WC Auburn University v. International Business Machines, Corp. Doc. 122 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA E A S T E R N DIVISION A U B U R N UNIVERSITY, P la in tif f , v. IN T E R N A T IO N A L BUSINESS M A C H IN E S CORP., D e f e n d a n t. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 3:09-cv-694-MEF (W O ) M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER T h is cause is before the Court on Auburn University's Motion for Leave to File B rie f and Exhibits Under Seal, (Doc. # 120), filed on October 8, 2010 by Plaintiff Auburn U n iv e rs ity ("Auburn"). F A C T S AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY O n July 23, 2009, Auburn filed this suit alleging infringement of two of its patents a s well as conversion and unjust enrichment. (Doc. # 1). After the conversion and unjust e n ric h m e n t claims were dismissed, Auburn filed its First Amended Complaint for C o rre c tio n of Inventorship and Patent Infringement on July 17, 2010. (Doc. # 87). O n e January 1, 2010, the parties filed a Joint Motion for a Protective Order. (Doc. # 67). One day later, the Court entered a Protective Order. (Doc. # 68). Under this P ro te c tiv e Order, the parties were permitted to designate discovery material as " C O N F ID E N T IA L " or "HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL-OUTSIDE ATTORNEYS' EYES ONLY." Id. at 2, 3. These designations meant that the party receiving the discovery m a te ria l could use it "solely for the purposes of the preparation and trial" of this case. Id. A party can use the "CONFIDENTIAL" designation for discovery material "which that p a rty, in good faith, deems to be confidential in nature and that (a) is not publicly known a n d that the [p]arty would not normally reveal to third parties or, if disclosed would re q u ire such third parties to maintain in confidence, or that (b) comprises or contains in f o rm a tio n that the party claims in good faith to constitute or relate to sensitive nonp u b lic proprietary information, such as trade secrets or other confidential research, d e v e lo p m e n t, or commercial information." Id. at 3, 6. The "HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL-OUTSIDE ATTORNEYS' EYES ONLY" d e s ig n a tio n can be used only for discovery material that satisfies the requirements of the " C O N F ID E N T IA L " designation. Id. Furthermore, such discovery material must " c o n ta in [ ] or disclose[] information relating to, referencing, or pertaining to highly s e n s itiv e or proprietary technical, financial, business or personal information, the im p ro p e r use or disclosure of which would likely do harm to the [p]roducing [p]arty's b u s in e s s , employees, or other persons, which may include but is not limited to, c o n f id e n tia l customer lists, trade secrets relating to current or future products, and nonp u b lic documents concerning pending patent applications." Id. at 34, 6. O n June 22, 2010, this Court entered a Scheduling Order, which required, in part, th a t the parties file their opening claim-construction briefs by October 8, 2010. (Doc. # 9 1 , at 2). With the instant motion, Auburn seeks leave to file under seal a non-public (unredacted) version of its opening claim-construction brief and exhibits thereto, both of w h ic h contain information that Auburn has designated "CONFIDENTIAL" and " H IG H L Y CONFIDENTIAL-OUTSIDE ATTORNEYS' EYES ONLY." (Doc. # 120, at 1 ). I I. DISCUSSION A federal court's authority to seal or otherwise prevent public access to documents o r proceedings is derived from Rule 26(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See F e d . R. Civ. P. 26(c); see also In re Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc., v. CBS, Inc., 1 8 4 F. Supp. 2d 1353, 1362 (N.D. Ga. 2002). In relevant part, Rule 26(c) provides: P ro te c tiv e Orders. Upon motion by a party or by the person f ro m whom discovery is sought . . . for good cause shown, the c o u rt . . . may make any order which justice requires to p ro te c t a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, o p p re s s io n , or undue burden or expense, including one or m o re of the following: .... (6 ) that a deposition, after being sealed, be opened only by o rd e r of the court; (7 ) that a trade secret or other confidential research, d e v e lo p m e n t, or commercial information not be revealed or b e revealed only in a designated way; and (8 ) that the parties simultaneously file specified documents or in f o rm a tio n enclosed in sealed envelopes to be opened as d ire c te d by the court. F e d . R. Civ. P. 26(c) (emphasis added). While parties often stipulate to a protective order d e s ig n a tin g particular documents as confidential, such a stipulation only "postpones the n e c e s s a ry showing of `good cause' required for entry of a protective order until the c o n f id e n tia l designation is challenged." Chicago Tribune Co. v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., 263 F.3d 1304, 1307 (11th Cir. 2001) (citing In re Alexander Grant & Co. Litig., 8 2 0 F.2d 352, 356 (11th Cir. 1987)). E v e n when no third party challenges a motion to seal, however, the Court must s till ensure that the motion is supported by good cause. See Estate of Martin Luther King, J r ., 184 F. Supp. 2d at 1363. "The judge is the primary representative of the public in te re s t in the judicial process and is duty-bound therefore to review any request to seal th e record (or part of it). He may not rubber stamp a stipulation to seal the record." Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir. 1 9 9 9 ) (internal citation omitted). " O n c e a matter is brought before a court for resolution, it is no longer solely the p a rtie s ' case, but also the public's case." Brown v. Advantage Eng'g, Inc., 960 F.2d 1 0 1 3 , 1016 (11th Cir. 1992). There is a limited First Amendment right of access to civil tria l proceedings. See Chicago Tribune, 263 F.3d at 1310. In addition, the public has a c o m m o n -la w right to inspect and copy judicial records, although the right is not absolute. See Nixon v. Warner Comms., Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597-98 (1978). Absent a showing that th e interests of non-disclosure outweigh the public's common law right of access, courts o f te n deny even joint motions to seal in civil cases. See, e.g., Baxter Int'l, Inc. v. Abbott L a b s ., 297 F.3d 544 (7th Cir. 2002) (denying joint motion to maintain certain documents u n d e r seal); Jaufre ex rel. Jaufre v. Taylor, 351 F. Supp. 2d 514 (E.D. La. 2005) (denying jo in t motion to seal court record); Stamp v. Overnite Transp. Co., No. Civ. A. 96-2320G T V , 1998 WL 229538 (D. Kan. Apr. 10, 1998) (denying joint motion to seal court record). Analysis of whether materials submitted in conjunction with the motions in this c a s e are subject to either the common-law right of access or the First Amendment right of a c c e s s requires the Court to assess whether the proponent of sealing the documents has s a tis f ie d the "good cause" showing required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c). See, e.g., Chicago Tribune, 263 F.3d at 1310-15; Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., 184 F. S u p p . 2d at 1365-67. This analysis requires the Court to (1) determine whether valid g ro u n d s for the issuance of a protective order have been presented; and (2) balance the p u b lic 's interest in access against the litigant's interest in confidentiality. Estate of M a r tin Luther King, Jr., 184 F. Supp. 2d at 1366. Auburn has failed to present the Court w ith sufficient grounds for sealing the documents pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil P ro c e d u re 26(c). Therefore, in light of the foregoing authorities, it is hereby ORDERED th a t: A u b u rn show cause in writing on or before October 18, 2010 as to why its o p e n in g claim-construction briefs and exhibits thereto should be filed under seal. Auburn's submission in response to this Order should cite legal precedent and make s p e c if ic arguments as to why that precedent supports its position with respect to filing the e x h ib it under seal. D O N E this the 14 day of October, 2010. th /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?