BladeRoom Group Limited et al v. Facebook, Inc.

Filing 290

REDACTED ORDER by Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd re 263 Discovery Dispute Joint Report No. 12. (hrllc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/22/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 SAN JOSE DIVISION United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 BLADEROOM GROUP LIMITED, et al., Plaintiffs, 13 14 15 16 Case No.5:15-cv-01370-EJD (HRL) ORDER RE DISCOVERY DISPUTE JOINT REPORT NO. 12 v. FACEBOOK, INC., et al., Re: Dkt. No. 263 Defendants. 17 18 19 INTRODUCTION In Discovery Dispute Joint Report (“DDJR”) #12 the defendants, Facebook and the three 20 Emerson entities, ask the court to require plaintiffs to provide further supplementation to their 21 responses to interrogatories propounded to them asking for particulars about each of the trade 22 secrets they claim were misappropriated by defendants. 23 24 BACKGROUND According to the Second Amended Complaint (redacted version, Dkt# 107), the plaintiffs 25 spent many years developing and refining a new way to design and build large data centers. Large 26 data centers are complex structures that house vast arrays of computer servers. Previously, data 27 centers had been “stick built” (in the manner of any conventional “bricks and mortar” building) or 28 constructed by joining together prebuilt volumetric boxes. In contrast, plaintiffs’ new way was a 1 prefabricated and modular construction approach. REDACTED 2 Plaintiffs say they relied on a unique combination of information, compilations, techniques, 3 designs, know how, methods, and processes, which were integrated into carefully developed 4 approaches to assembly, integration, parts acquisition, quality control, transportation, and 5 installation to result in what they named the BRG Methodology (“methodology”). This 6 methodology produced a new kind of large data center they called “BladeRoom.” 7 Plaintiffs allege that the defendants, in the guise of potential buyers of a BladeRoom, 8 soaked up all they could of the methodology through many in-depth briefings with plaintiffs’ 9 technical personnel as well as examination of documentation and tours and demonstrations of BladeRoom features and installations. Then, say plaintiffs, defendants appropriated the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 methodology for themselves, even claiming to the world that they had originated it. Plaintiffs sue 12 for misappropriation of trade secrets (and other claims). 13 Plaintiffs described their claimed 25 trade secrets in a sealed filing captioned “Disclosure 14 of Plaintiffs’ Trade Secrets Under California Code of Civil Procedure sec. 2019.210.” 15 (“Disclosures”) (Dkt. 107, Ex. B). 16 REDACTED REDACTED Each secret, according to plaintiffs, 17 was not publicly known in the data center construction industry when disclosed to Facebook and 18 the Emerson entities. Defendants did not move to challenge the sufficiency of the Disclosures. 19 Defendants did, however, submit interrogatories to plaintiffs asking, in effect, to describe 20 their Disclosures with greater particularity. Plaintiffs responded, but defendants were not satisfied 21 and wanted more. That impasse resulted in DDJR #8, where defendants asked the court to order 22 responses that offered more exactitude than allusions to “know how,” “methods,” and “design 23 attributes” and to really spell out what the trade secret is rather than what it “does.” This court 24 agreed and ordered plaintiffs to supplement their responses with respect to their Disclosures. 25 DISCUSSION 26 Plaintiffs did supplement, but defendants are still not satisfied, and now the court has 27 DDJR #12. Borrowing from the court’s order on DDJR #8, defendants complain that plaintiffs 28 still describe the secrets in terms of functionality, and do not disclose their “content.” They lament 2 1 2 that they still do not know just what “it” is that they have supposedly misappropriated. In their supplemental interrogatory responses (DDJR 12, Exs. A and B), plaintiffs provided REDACTED 3 It 4 5 would be fair to say that they took pains in the supplemental submissions to “illustrate” the secrets 6 and to flesh them out. But, it would also be fair to say that, for the most part, they did not state the 7 “content” of the secrets, at least not in the way that defendants and, previously, this court thought 8 it should be done. Now, however, the court has a new appreciation of what plaintiffs are trying to claim as 10 their alleged secrets. The opinion in Altavion, Inc. v. Konica Minolta Systems Laboratory, 226 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 Cal.App.4th 26 (2014) is instructive. It explains that possible trade secrets fall into a continuum, 12 from something as high level as a general idea, down to mid-level concepts for developing and 13 implementing the general idea, and finally ending at the granular information such as source code 14 and algorithms that would consummate what had started as a general idea. The take-away is that 15 someone could be guilty of misappropriation of trade secrets even if they did not (in the example 16 just given) get hold of the source code and algorithms. Even an “idea,” if not known to the public, 17 protected from disclosure, having economic value, etc., might be adjudged a trade secret. 18 19 20 21 REDACTED 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 1 2 3 REDACTED 4 5 6 7 1 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 CONCLUSION 12 13 The plaintiffs have done enough supplementation to pass muster for present purposes. This 14 is not an implicit recognition by this court of the merit of any of the claimed secrets. All the court 15 concludes is that plaintiffs have sufficiently articulated what they say their secrets are, and the 16 court understands that the level of particularity described for each is the level of particularity that 17 the plaintiffs have staked out to go forward on. Defendants’ request for an order requiring further supplemental answers to their “trade 18 19 secret” interrogatories is denied. 20 SO ORDERED. 21 Dated: May 22, 2017 22 23 HOWARD R. LLOYD United States Magistrate Judge 24 25 26 1 27 28 It is correct that plaintiffs do not spell out, datum by datum, what that know how is, perhaps because they would say it was not feasible and/or necessary. This court offers no opinion on whether it is either feasible or necessary. This is how plaintiffs chose to define certain of their claimed secrets, and it remains for another day to find out how well they have succeeded. 4

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