In re Seagate Technology, LLC

Citation497 F.3d 1360
Decision Date20 August 2007
Docket NumberMisc. No. 830.
PartiesIn re SEAGATE TECHNOLOGY, LLC, Petitioner.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Gary M. Hoffman, Dickstein Shapiro LLP, of Washington, DC, for amicus curiae, Intellectual Property Owners Association. With him on the brief were Kenneth W. Brothers and Rachael Lea Leventhal. Also on the brief were Marc S. Adler and Richard F. Phillips, Intellectual Property Owners Association, of Washington, DC. Of counsel was Herbert C. Wamsley.

Michael Barclay, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, of Palo Alto, CA, for amicus curiae, MediaTek, Inc. With him on the brief was Monica Mucchetti Eno.

Roderick R. McKelvie, Covington & Burling LLP, of Washington, DC, for amicus curiae, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. With him on the brief was Simon J. Frankel, of San Francisco, CA.

Patricia Smink Rogowski, Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz LLP, of Wilmington, DE, for amicus curiae, Philadelphia Intellectual Property Law Association.

Douglas E. Olson, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, LLP, of San Diego, CA, for amicus curiae, San Diego Intellectual Property Law Association. Of counsel on the brief was Vicki G. Norton, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, of San Diego, CA.

Thomas S. Biemer, Dilworth Paxson LLP, of Philadelphia, PA, for amici curiae, Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, et al. With him on the brief was Philip J. Foret.

Laurence H. Pretty, Law Office of Laurence H. Pretty, of Los Angeles, CA, for amicus curiae, TiVo, Inc.

Michael K. Kirschner, Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson, P.S., of Seattle, WA, for amicus curiae, Washington State Patent Law Association. Of counsel on the brief were Peter J. Knudsen, Washington State Patent Law Association, of Bothell, WA, and Pam Kohli Jacobson, Betts Patterson & Mines, P.S., of Seattle, WA.

Before NEWMAN, MAYER, LOURIE, RADER, SCHALL, BRYSON, GAJARSA, LINN, DYK, and PROST, Circuit Judges.*

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge MAYER, in which Circuit Judges NEWMAN, LOURIE, RADER, SCHALL, BRYSON, GAJARSA, LINN, DYK, and PROST join. Concurring opinion filed by Circuit Judge GAJARSA, in which Circuit Judge NEWMAN joins. Concurring opinion filed by Circuit Judge NEWMAN.

MAYER, Circuit Judge.

Seagate Technology, LLC ("Seagate") petitions for a writ of mandamus directing the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to vacate its orders compelling disclosure of materials and testimony that Seagate claims is covered by the attorney-client privilege and work product protection. We ordered en banc review, and now grant the petition. We overrule Underwater Devices Inc. v. Morrison-Knudsen Co., 717 F.2d 1380 (1983), and we clarify the scope of the waiver of attorney-client privilege and work product protection that results when an accused patent infringer asserts an advice of counsel defense to a charge of willful infringement.

Background

Convolve, Inc. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (collectively "Convolve") sued Seagate on July 13, 2000, alleging infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 4,916,635 ("the '635 patent") and 5,638,267 ("the '267 patent"). Subsequently, U.S. Patent No. 6,314,473 ("the '473 patent") issued on November 6, 2001, and Convolve amended its complaint on January 25, 2002, to assert infringement of the '473 patent. Convolve also alleged that Seagate willfully infringed the patents.

Prior to the lawsuit, Seagate retained Gerald Sekimura to provide an opinion concerning Convolve's patents, and he ultimately prepared three written opinions. Seagate received the first opinion on July 24, 2000, shortly after the complaint was filed. This opinion analyzed the '635 and '267 patents and concluded that many claims were invalid and that Seagate's products did not infringe. The opinion also considered Convolve's pending International Application WO 99/45535 ("the '535 application"), which recited technology similar to that disclosed in the yet-to-be-issued '473 patent. On December 29, 2000, Sekimura provided an updated opinion to Seagate. In addition to his previous conclusions, this opinion concluded that the '267 patent was possibly unenforceable. Both opinions noted that not all of the patent claims had been reviewed, and that the '535 application required further analysis, which Sekimura recommended postponing until a U.S. patent issued. On February 21, 2003, Seagate received a third opinion concerning the validity and infringement of the by-then-issued '473 patent. There is no dispute that Seagate's opinion counsel operated separately and independently of trial counsel at all times.

In early 2003, pursuant to the trial court's scheduling order, Seagate notified Convolve of its intent to rely on Sekimura's three opinion letters in defending against willful infringement, and it disclosed all of his work product and made him available for deposition. Convolve then moved to compel discovery of any communications and work product of Seagate's other counsel, including its trial counsel.1 On May 28, 2004, the trial court concluded that Seagate waived the attorney-client privilege for all communications between it and any counsel, including its trial attorneys and in-house counsel,2 concerning the subject matter of Sekimura's opinions, i.e., infringement, invalidity, and enforceability. It further determined that the waiver began when Seagate first gained knowledge of the patents and would last until the alleged infringement ceased. Accordingly, the court ordered production of any requested documents and testimony concerning the subject matter of Sekimura's opinions. It provided for in camera review of documents relating to trial strategy, but said that any advice from trial counsel that undermined the reasonableness of relying on Sekimura's opinions would warrant disclosure. The court also determined that protection of work product communicated to Seagate was waived.

Based on these rulings, Convolve sought production of trial counsel opinions relating to infringement, invalidity, and enforceability of the patents, and also noticed depositions of Seagate's trial counsel. After the trial court denied Seagate's motion for a stay and certification of an interlocutory appeal, Seagate petitioned for a writ of mandamus. We stayed the discovery orders and, recognizing the functional relationship between our...

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