Friday, May 13, 2011

Rambus Liable for Spoliation, But Sanctions to be Determined

Today the Federal Circuit issued rulings on two Rambus spoliation cases, Micron v. Rambus and Hynix v. Rambus.  These cases arose out of Rambus' enforcement efforts on its semiconductor memory patents.  Two district courts had reached different results on whether Rambus' document destruction policies resulted in sanctionable spoliation.  Judge Robinson in Delaware had found spoliation and dismissed Rambus' infringement claims against Micron.  Judge Whyte in California did not find spoliation, and let the patent case go to trial.

The Federal Circuit:
(1) affirmed Judge Robinson's finding of spoliation but reversed her dismissal sanction because of inadequate findings on Rambus' bad faith, and remanded the case (including a determination of whether the appropriate sanction for spoliation should be short of dismissal);
(2) reversed Judge Whyte's finding of no spoliation, and remanded;
(3) in so doing, rejected the notion that the spoliation standard requires that litigation be "imminent":  It agreed with Hynix's (and Micron's) position:
Hynix argues that reasonable foreseeability incorporates no requirement of imminence of litigation, while Rambus argues that “to be reasonably foreseeable, litigation must be ‘imminent,’ at least in the sense that it is probable and free of significant contingencies.

. . .

In Micron II, this court held that that standard does not carry a gloss requiring that litigation be “imminent, or probable without significant contingencies.”

Hynix slip opn. at 12-13; see also Micron slip opn. at 12-14.  The Micron opinion noted that bad faith requires a showing of actual intent, and that a "should have known" standard was insufficient.

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  1. Judge Whyte also found there was no prejudice, so remand for a redetermination of spoliation seems somewhat pointless. Unless Robinson rules quickly and Judge Whyte applies collateral estoppel.

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