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ABT Systems, LLC v. Research Products Corp.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 14, 2017



          Kane Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff ABT Systems, LLC's (“ABT”) motion to compel Defendant Research Products Corporation (“RPC”) to identify and provide sections of Defendant's source code as well as to respond to ABT Interrogatory No. 4. (See Doc. Nos. 67, 75 at 7.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for a status conference. (Doc. No. 84.) For the following reasons, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Plaintiff's motion to compel and will grant Plaintiff's motion for a status conference.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This dispute concerns Patent No. 5, 547, 017 (“the '017 Patent”). (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 5-7.) The '017 Patent protects Armin Rudd's invention related to air conditioning and heating systems. (Id.) On August 20, 2003, Defendant allegedly licensed the ‘017 Patent from inventor Armin Rudd, and agreed to pay a royalty on products falling within the scope of the ‘017 Patent claims and to mark those products with the ‘017 Patent number (the “License Agreement”). (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 8-9.) On February 14, 2005, Armin Rudd purportedly assigned the License Agreement to Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         On October 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant for breach of contract. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 15-17.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the contract by selling products that fell within the scope of the ‘017 Patent without paying royalty fees or marking the products with the ‘017 Patent number. (Id. ¶¶ 11-17.) Plaintiff's complaint lists “Model Nos. 8444, 8446, 8448, 8463, 8465, 8466, 8476, 8600, 8620, 8800, 8910 and 4838” as examples of Defendant's products that fall within the scope of the claims of the ‘017 Patent (together, the “Accused Products”). (Doc. No. 1 ¶ 11.) The Accused Products are thermostats and other products using thermostats that employ “a fan recycling control.” (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 11; 63 ¶ 11.)

         Defendant filed an answer on November 7, 2014 (Doc. No. 6), and filed an amended answer on June 8, 2016 with leave of Court (Doc. Nos. 61-63). In its amended answer, Defendant admits to selling the Accused Products, not paying royalties on the Accused Products, and not marking the Accused Products with the ‘017 Patent number. (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶¶ 11, 13-14; 63 ¶¶ 11, 13-14.) However, Defendant denies that the Accused Products fall within the scope of the ‘017 Patent's claims. (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 12; 63 ¶ 12.) Defendant denies it breached the License Agreement. (Doc. Nos. 1 ¶ 15; 63 ¶ 15.)

         On September 6, 2016, Plaintiff filed the pending motion to compel together with a brief in support thereto. (Doc. Nos. 67, 68.) Defendant filed a brief in opposition on September 20, 2016 (Doc. No. 71), and Plaintiff filed a reply brief on October 7, 2016 (Doc. No. 75). On April 12, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion requesting a status conference. (Doc. No. 84 at 2.) The pending motions are now ripe for disposition.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 addresses the matter of failure to cooperate in discovery or to make disclosures. “Specifically, if a party served with discovery fails to respond adequately, the serving party may file a motion to compel under Rule 37(a).” Hall v. Rhoades, No. 09-1907, 2013 WL 5488747, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 1, 2013); Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1), (a)(3). The scope of discovery is defined by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, which provides as follows:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “Rulings regarding the proper scope of discovery, and the extent to which discovery may be compelled, are matters consigned to the court's discretion and judgment. Thus, it has long been held that decisions regarding Rule 37 motions are ‘committed to the sound discretion of the district court.'” Pilchesky v. Deputy U.S. Marshal Barone, No. 14-381, 2016 WL 7118147, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 7, 2016) (quoting DiGregorio v. First Rediscount Corp., 506 F.2d 781, 788 (3d Cir. 1974)).


         A. Defendant's Source Code - ABT Interrogatories Nos. 11, 12

         Plaintiff moves the Court to compel Defendant to provide and identify the code that reveals whether the Accused Products engage in a “fan recycle-control function with a predetermined off-time.” (Doc. No. 67; see Doc. No. 68 at 10.) Defendant maintains that it provided Plaintiff with ...

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