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NATIONAL UNION ELEC. CORP. v. MATSUSHITA ELEC. IND

May 5, 1980

NATIONAL UNION ELECTRIC CORPORATION
v.
MATSUSHITA ELECTRIC INDUSTRIAL CO., LTD., et al; IN RE: JAPANESE ELECTRIC PRODUCTS ANTITRUST LITIGATION



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BECKER

This Memorandum Opinion addresses a motion styled "Request of Certain Defendants for the Production by National Union Electric Corporation (NUE) of Certain Computer Materials." *fn1" More specifically, defendants request NUE to cause its computer experts to perform the work necessary to create a computer readable tape containing certain data previously supplied by NUE to defendants in printed form in answers to interrogatories.

The relevant interrogatories requested:

 
NUE's annual and monthly sales, in dollars and units, for monochrome and color television receivers, by model (Interrogatories 1 and 2)
 
NUE's annual and monthly production, in dollars and units, for monochrome and color television receivers, by model (Interrogatories 3 and 4)
 
Model numbers for television receivers produced or sold by NUE, including various characteristics of the sets (e.g. the number of square inches on the viewing screen of the picture tube) (Interrogatory No. 5).

 In answer to the interrogatories, NUE furnished certain TV sales and production data, and certain model by model price data in the form of a computer generated paper printout. The printout can, of course, be read by defense counsel. However, it cannot be read by defense counsel's computer. Because defense counsel contend that they cannot effectively analyze the data until the data can be read by their computer, they have brought the present motion. *fn2"

 Defendants' counsel concede that they could themselves replicate what they seek from NUE if they were to undertake the expensive and time consuming process of having clerical personnel manually create a data base identical to NUE's by reading each piece of data in NUE's computer paper printout and key-punching it into a computer readable device. *fn3" They estimate that this process would take two months and cost many thousands of dollars. On the other hand, defendants submit that it would be a comparatively simple matter for NUE's computer people to rerun the program which caused the computer to assemble and to print this data in paper reports, substituting a new instruction to extract and print the same data onto a computer-readable form like magnetic tape. Defendants are willing to pay the cost of this operation. *fn4"

 There is a subtle play on words involved in this motion. Lawyers and judges often talk of "production" in terms of Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as involving the delivery to the opposing party of some existing document or tangible object. In connection with the present motion, however, the word "produce" is used in the sense of "manufacture"; i. e. NUE is being asked to manufacture or produce something which did not exist theretofore. NUE maintains that the discovery rules do not cognize such a request and that, in any event, what defendants request is protected by the work product privilege, F.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(3), because it reflects mental impressions, analysis, conclusions or thoughts of NUE's counsel or their representatives. *fn5" NUE thus resists the motion. *fn6"

 NUE's work product objection stems ultimately from the fact that the data at issue was compiled under counsel's direction from raw data which has been available for defendants' inspection and copying in this litigation. NUE asserts that the process for establishing the computer base for the data at issue involved detailed "decision analysis", i. e. the sentient selection by counsel from voluminous raw material of a limited amount of data for inclusion in that base, and that the fruits of that process are therefore protected under the work product rubric. Acknowledging that the work product privilege is but a qualified evidentiary privilege, see United States v. Nobles, 422 U.S. 225, 95 S. Ct. 2160, 45 L. Ed. 2d 141 (1975), NUE adds that the defendants do not have substantial need for the computer tape, within the meaning of F.R.Civ.P. 26(b) (3), because they could create the tape themselves by the method described above. Given the colossal cost of this litigation, NUE suggests that the time and cost necessary to produce the tape is modest and that it does not constitute undue hardship within the meaning of the rule.

 When this matter first came on for hearing, we denied the motion for discovery, in part because we misunderstood it, and in part because it was couched in different form than it now is. We were under the impression at that time that the defendants were seeking data stored by the plaintiffs somewhere within their computer software, which differed from the material on the paper printout, and further that the data was arrayed in a particular way so that disclosure might have revealed something about NUE's trial strategy. So viewed, the information sought would have been similar to plaintiff's trial support system which was protected from discovery under the work product notion in In re: IBM Peripherals EDP Devices Antitrust Litigation, 5 Computer Law Service Rep. 878 (N.D.Cal.1975). See also Montrose Chemical Corp. of California v. Train, 160 U.S. App. D.C. 270, 491 F.2d 63 (D.C.Cir.1974). An affidavit filed by NUE's computer expert explains that NUE, through its counsel, did in fact create a litigation support system on the basis of selection by counsel of a number of documents out of many for inclusion in a computer data base. *fn7" However, the defendants do not in fact seek a computer disc, or a computer tape extracted from that disc, which contains information selected for use in such a litigation support system. Rather, defendants' request is limited to exactly the same data (in the same arrangement) which NUE furnished defendants in paper computer printout reports. We are thus faced with a different question from that which we originally perceived.

 It is true, as NUE complains, that no computer tape in the form requested by the defendants exists, and that the relief requested by defendants would require "the creation (e.g. manufacture) of a physical object not now in existence". The principal question before us, however, is whether that which defendants seek production (or manufacture) of is work product within the meaning of the Federal Rules. We conclude that it is not.

 Ordinarily, in addressing the question whether given material is work product, we would turn to precedent, including the seminal case of Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 67 S. Ct. 385, 91 L. Ed. 451 (1947). We have canvassed the cases, but find nothing helpful. We are, therefore, constrained to analyze the facts before us in terms of the language of Rule 26. We have done so, but have failed to discover any "mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories" therein. Neither do we find any "trial strategy". Rather, we find that all the defendants seek is precisely the same data as is contained in the computer printouts which were furnished in discovery. To the extent that an issue exists as to selection and arrangement of that data, it appears that it is the defendants who decided what data NUE was to gather and how it should be arranged by virtue of the framing of their interrogatories. Moreover, to the extent that any "decision analysis" by NUE was involved, the paper computer printout has already revealed whatever data, activity, or other "decisional analysis" considerations were present.

 As defendants note, the only difference between what defendants already have and what they request is that a computer cannot read what NUE has previously produced. That is a mechanical, not a qualitative, difference. It must be remembered that the actual data being sought is model-by-model production, sales, and price data, which is not claimed to have been the product of any attorney input. And, finally, it must be noted that it is clear from the affidavits which have been filed that NUE does not have to produce its entire data base or computerized trial support system in order to adequately respond to defendants' request. *fn8" Rather, as defendants' affidavits demonstrate, in order to produce the computer-printed information in a tape form, all that is necessary is for NUE's computer specialist to re-run the instructions used to extract and print the computer reports on paper with a new instruction to print the results on computer-readable form like magnetic tape rather than in paper copy form. *fn9" To repeat, what is sought is not work product within the meaning of Rule 26.

 In view of the foregoing analysis we must confront the only remaining question, i. e. whether there is anything in the federal discovery rules which relieves NUE from the obligation to perform the labor necessary to produce the requested tape. Notwithstanding NUE's protestations, both common sense and a growing body of precedent support defendants' request. While we can find no case in which the court has ordered the programming of a computer to manufacture a computer tape not ...


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