Plaintiff Electronic Discovery in Patent Case: Disclosing the Source (Code)
In a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Federal Circuit, the plaintiff held a patent dealing with weather reporting and forecasting. In Baron Services, Inc. v. Media Weather Innovations LLC, No. 11-CV-1606 (Fed. Cir. 2013), plaintiff Baron filed a patent-in-suit claim against defendant MWI, a company that was started by its own former employee. MWI’s business was sending out weather alerts, called the WeatherCall programs, to customers. Baron sought as part of its plaintiff discovery requests the source code for the WeatherCall programs.
MWI responded that the patent-in-suit claimed no computer-code based invention, so the source code was irrelevant. MWI filed a Motion for Summary Judgment of noninfringement and filed affidavits attesting that its computer code only forwarded messages from the National Weather Service. Baron admitted the National Weather Service did not infringe on its patent. However, Baron alleged that MWI’s source code was directly relevant to the method, apparatus and system claims.
Baron objected to a summary judgment hearing without disclosure of the source code and filed a motion to compel discovery production. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s motions as moot.
The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered defendant to produce the source code. It found that plaintiff had properly pleaded sufficient allegations that the computer source code was relevant to the Patent-in-Suit claim, “Examining the source code would enable Baron to determine if MWI’s noninfrigement position was correct…the opportunity for the reasonable chance to disprove MWI’s position on noninfrigement was relevant and essential.” Id. at 12.