Discovery Federal Court Cases

The intellectual property litigation process in federal court can be lengthy, often due to the extensiveness of the discovery phase of litigation.  The proper handling of the discovery phase can often mean the success—or lack thereof—of your case.

What Is Discovery?

After the initial pleadings and responses have been filed to begin a civil claim in federal court, the next major stage of litigation is referred to as “discovery.”  Whether supporting or defending a claim, it is critical to know what evidence and information the other side has related to the case.  If each side were able to consistently surprise the other in court, litigation would be difficult to manage and predict.  For this reason, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) set out specific guidelines, requirements, and restrictions on the trading of information and evidence during the pretrial process.

 

Specifically, the FRCPs designate particular methods of requesting and obtaining information during discovery, which include the following:

 

  • Initial disclosures – Unlike other discovery methods, Rule 26(a)(1)(A) requires that each party automatically provide certain information without waiting for a formal request from the other party. Such required disclosures include the names and contact information of anyone who may have discoverable information, as well as a description of the information they may have.
  • Requests for admissions – Each party can request that the other admit or deny that certain statements are true. If the party admits to the truth of the statement, that fact then will not have to be disputed in court, which can save resources during the case and at trial.
  • Interrogatories – Parties are allowed to submit a written set of formal questions requesting that the other party answer them—also in writing—under oath. The answering party can choose to answer the questions, identify certain documents that provide answers, or object to the question.
  • Document Requests – These are written requests for the other party to provide physical evidence, which can include documents, tangible items, access to inspect physical locations, and electronically stored information (ESI).
  • Depositions – A deposition occurs outside of court and involves an attorney asking questions of a witness, who must respond under oath. The scope of questions that may be asked in a deposition is much broader than at trial and depositions give a party an idea of what testimony they may expect in court.  If a witness later changes his testimony, the deposition can be used to challenge the new testimony and the character of the witness.
  • Expert discovery – Many intellectual property cases involve the analysis and testimony of experts who provide highly technical opinions regarding aspects of a case. Expert testimony can be a critical part of some IP cases.

 

The discovery process accounts for a major part of the time and money that goes into litigation. It is highly important to comply with all of the federal discovery rules to avoid any unnecessary disputes in court or sanctions by the court.

The Importance of Discovery

An efficient yet thorough discovery process is critical to intellectual property litigation for many reasons.  Gathering evidence through discovery can directly aid in all of the following:

 

Motion for Summary Judgment – After discovery, one or both parties may file a motion for summary judgment.  Based on the information gathered in discovery, your attorney may be able to assert that there are no questions of fact left to answer, so the judge should make a decision in the case based on the law without the need for a trial.  Information obtained in discovery is often essential to support summary judgment on one or all of the issues in a case.

 

Settlement negotiations – During discovery, each side learns about the strength of the other side’s case.  At times we are able to use the information acquired during discovery to negotiate a favorable settlement.  Not only do you learn about your opponent’s case but your opponent may realize that you have a strong case and may agree to settle without risking a loss at trial.

 

Trial preparation – Discovery is a major part of preparing for a trial.  Discovery tools can be used to help predict the information that will be sought from your opponent’s witnesses and prepare challenges to their testimony.  Discovery can also lead to a pretrial order that states which evidence will or will not be allowed at trial.

Consult with an Intellectual Property Attorney with Experience in Federal Court Today

We have been handling intellectual property litigation in the federal justice system for more than 20 years.  This experience has allowed us to develop discovery strategies that help us win cases.  If you believe you may have a legal claim regarding intellectual property, please contact us via our contact form.