Depuy Synthes Prods., Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc., 2020-1514

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Writing for the CourtDyk, Circuit Judge.
Citation990 F.3d 1364
Parties DEPUY SYNTHES PRODUCTS, INC., DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellees v. VETERINARY ORTHOPEDIC IMPLANTS, INC., Defendant-Appellant
Docket Number2020-1514
Decision Date12 March 2021

990 F.3d 1364

DEPUY SYNTHES PRODUCTS, INC., DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellees
v.
VETERINARY ORTHOPEDIC IMPLANTS, INC., Defendant-Appellant

2020-1514

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

Decided: March 12, 2021


Jason Sheasby, Irell & Manella LLP, Los Angeles, CA, argued for plaintiffs-appellees. Also represented by Robert Troy Smith, GrayRobinson, P.A., Jacksonville, FL.

Jeff E. Schwartz, Fox Rothschild, LLP, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellant. Also represented by Austen Conrad Endersby ; Ryan North Miller, Philadelphia, PA; Cindy Laquidara, Akerman, LLP, Jacksonville, FL.

Before Prost, Chief Judge, Clevenger and Dyk, Circuit Judges.

Dyk, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. ("VOI") appeals an order of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Over VOI's objection, the district court directed the clerk to unseal the amended complaint of Plaintiffs DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. and DePuy Synthes Sales, Inc. (collectively "DePuy"). Because we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in performing its obligation to ensure public access to court documents, we affirm.

990 F.3d 1367

BACKGROUND

The parties are competitors in the market for veterinary orthopedic implants. On November 12, 2018, DePuy, the owner of U.S. Patent No. 8,523,921 (the "’921 patent") sued VOI, alleging infringement of the ’921 patent. On May 15, 2019, the district court entered the parties’ joint proposed protective order, which designated various categories of information as "Confidential Material" and "Highly Confidential Material—Attorney Eyes Only." J.A. 546. The information designated Highly Confidential encompassed "supplier ... names and identifying information." Id.

On July 10, 2019, DePuy filed under seal an unopposed motion for leave to amend the complaint. The amended complaint joined as a defendant the manufacturer of VOI's accused products (hereinafter the "Manufacturer") and disclosed the identity of the Manufacturer (hereinafter the "Manufacturer Identity"), as well as information about the business relationship between the Manufacturer and VOI (hereinafter the "Other Information"). According to VOI, both the Manufacturer Identity and Other Information are Highly Confidential within the meaning of the parties’ protective order.

The district court directed the parties to file briefs addressing whether the amended complaint should be filed on the public record, redacted, or filed under seal. VOI argued that the Manufacturer Identity and the Other Information constituted trade secrets. To protect such information and prevent harm to its business interests, VOI contended, it was necessary to file the amended complaint under seal, with only a redacted version available to the public.

DePuy argued that the Manufacturer Identity was already publicly known and did not warrant sealing or redacting the amended complaint. DePuy argued that the Manufacturer's website advertises its business of manufacturing orthopedic devices; that VOI and the Manufacturer have no confidentiality agreement; that the Manufacturer ships its products to VOI using a public carrier; and that a third party was aware that the Manufacturer supplied products to VOI. DePuy took no position regarding VOI's claim that the Other Information should be redacted.

After considering the parties’ briefs and supplemental filings, the district court ordered that the amended complaint be filed on the public record without redaction of either the Manufacturer Identity or Other Information. The district court reasoned that the Manufacturer Identity was not a trade secret and did not otherwise merit confidentiality. The district court's order did not specifically analyze the Other Information. VOI appealed. The notice of appeal was originally filed in the Eleventh Circuit, which then transferred the appeal to this court. We granted a stay of the district court's order pending appeal. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(1) and, as we discuss below, the collateral order doctrine.

DISCUSSION

This case requires us to decide two principal issues: first, whether we have jurisdiction to hear this interlocutory appeal under the collateral order doctrine; and second, on the merits, whether the district court abused its discretion in ordering the amended complaint to be filed on the public docket.

I

The parties dispute whether the collateral order doctrine confers jurisdiction to

990 F.3d 1368

hear this appeal. Questions of our jurisdiction are governed by Federal Circuit law. See, e.g. , Ultra-Precision Mfg. Ltd. v. Ford Motor Co. , 338 F.3d 1353, 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2003) ("We apply our own law and not the law of the regional circuit to issues concerning our jurisdiction." (citing Spraytex, Inc. v. DJS&T , 96 F.3d 1377, 1379 (Fed. Cir. 1996) )); Woodard v. Sage Prods., Inc. , 818 F.2d 841, 844 (Fed. Cir. 1987) (holding that "deference" to regional circuit law "is inappropriate on issues of our own appellate jurisdiction").

The courts of appeals "have jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the district courts." 28 U.S.C. § 1291. The collateral order doctrine is a narrow exception to the usual rule of finality and allows an interlocutory appeal when a trial court's order "affect[s] rights that will be irretrievably lost in the absence of an immediate appeal." Apple Inc. v. Samsung Elecs. Co. , 727 F.3d 1214, 1220 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (quoting Richardson-Merrell, Inc. v. Koller , 472 U.S. 424, 430–31, 105 S.Ct. 2757, 86 L.Ed.2d 340 (1985) ); see also Cohen v. Benefit Indus. Loan Corp. , 337 U.S. 541, 545–47, 69 S.Ct. 1221, 93 L.Ed. 1528 (1949) (recognizing the doctrine). For the collateral order doctrine to apply, an order must meet three requirements; it must (1) "conclusively determine the disputed question"; (2) "resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action"; and (3) "be effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment." Apple , 727 F.3d at 1220 (quoting Richardson-Merrell , 472 U.S. at 431, 105 S.Ct. 2757 ).

The district court's order unsealing the amended complaint satisfies all three conditions. First, the order conclusively determined that the information VOI seeks to protect does not merit sealing or redaction and should be filed on the public docket. Second, the sealing issue is unrelated to the merits of DePuy's infringement claim but implicates the "important balance between the public's interest in understanding judicial proceedings and the parties’ right to access the courts without being unduly required to disclose confidential information." See id. Third, the order could not be meaningfully reviewed after a final judgment because the information in the amended complaint, once disclosed to the public, could not be made confidential again. Id. ; see also In re Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc. , 756 F.3d 754, 761 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (holding that appeal of disclosure order after final judgment "will often come too late" because "the cat is out of the bag"); Ameziane v. Obama , 620 F.3d 1, 5 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (holding that disclosure of redacted text would be "effectively unreviewable" because "the disclosure cannot be undone"); In re Sims , 534 F.3d 117, 129 (2d Cir. 2008) (noting that "a remedy after final judgment cannot unsay the confidential information that has been revealed"); In re Copley Press, Inc. , 518 F.3d 1022, 1025 (9th Cir. 2008) ("Secrecy is a one-way street: Once information is published, it cannot be made secret again."). We therefore have jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine.

DePuy relies heavily on Awuah v. Coverall North America, Inc. , 585 F.3d 479 (1st Cir. 2009), in arguing that the order here is not appealable because it does not present an important issue sufficient to confer jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine. In Awuah , the issue was not about public disclosure, but whether certain discovery material needed to be disclosed to the plaintiffs without being subject to the protective order; this apparently affected the plaintiffs’ ability to

990 F.3d 1369

show the information to experts and potential witnesses. See id. at 483. Here, by contrast, the district court's order implicates the public's right to access judicial filings on the public docket. We find this right sufficiently important to distinguish this case from cases involving routine discovery orders governing disclosures between parties to a case.

II

A

On the merits, we must determine whether the district court abused its discretion by ordering that the amended complaint be filed on the public docket, rather than under seal or with redactions. A district court abuses its discretion if its decision rests on a legal error or a clearly erroneous finding of fact. Brown v. Ala. Dep't of Transp. , 597 F.3d 1160, 1173 (11th Cir. 2010). Here, VOI contends that the district court did both.

The Supreme Court has recognized "a general right to inspect and copy public records and documents, including judicial records and documents." Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc. , 435 U.S. 589, 597, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978) (footnotes omitted). This longstanding right helps secure...

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8 practice notes
  • The Law of District Court Stays for USPTO Proceedings
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • Behind the Scenes of the Trademark Modernization Act: An Interview with Stephen Lee
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • The Copyrightability of Cultural Heritage: A Case Study of the Legal Battle over the Nefertiti Bust
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • Decisions in Brief
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 cases
  • Crowley Gov't Servs. v. United States, 21-1387
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • March 10, 2022
    ...the integrity and transparency of the judicial 2 process. See DePuy Synthes Prods., Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc., 990 F.3d 1364, 1369 (Fed. Cir. 2021). These values underpin the strong presumption of public access to judicial records. See Baystate Techs., Inc. v. Bowers, 283......
  • Alearis, Inc. v. United States, 20-808T
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • January 11, 2022
    ...has "an independent duty to protect the public's right of access." DePuy Synthes Prods., Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc., 990 F.3d 1364, 1370 (Fed. Cir. 2021). Defendant filed an "agreed upon public version of the administrative record" on January 12, 2021. The redactions in th......
2 firm's commentaries
  • Recent Hot Topics and Developments in Trade Secrets Law
    • United States
    • LexBlog United States
    • June 3, 2022
    ...substantive requirements for filing documents under seal have been met.” In DePuy Synthes Prods. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc., 990 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2021), the court denied a motion to seal to protect alleged confidential information about the identity of a manufacturer. The c......
  • Recent Hot Topics And Developments In Trade Secrets Law
    • United States
    • Mondaq United States
    • June 7, 2022
    ...substantive requirements for filing documents under seal have been met." In DePuy Synthes Prods. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc., 990 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2021), the court denied a motion to seal to protect alleged confidential information about the identity of a manufacturer. The c......
4 books & journal articles
  • The Law of District Court Stays for USPTO Proceedings
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • Behind the Scenes of the Trademark Modernization Act: An Interview with Stephen Lee
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • The Copyrightability of Cultural Heritage: A Case Study of the Legal Battle over the Nefertiti Bust
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......
  • Decisions in Brief
    • United States
    • Landslide Nbr. 14-1, September 2021
    • September 1, 2021
    ...deference under the Chevron doctrine. Public Access to Information DePuy Synthes Products, Inc. v. Veterinary Orthopedic Implants, Inc. , 990 F.3d 1364, 2021 U.S.P.Q.2d 299 (Fed. Cir. 2021). The Federal Circuit decided an interlocutory appeal by affirming the district court’s decision unsea......

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