Motion to Redact Transcripts in Patent Case Denied Where Information Was Disclosed in Open Court

April 28, 2014

In this patent infringement action, both parties moved to redact information from the transcripts and both motions were unopposed. The district court found that the information should be redacted because it had been disclosed in open court.

In reaching this conclusion, the district court noted that there were procedures in place on redacting personal information, such as social security numbers, from transcripts. "The Eastern District has procedures to redact personal information from transcripts. See The Ohio Willow Wood Company v. Thermo-Ply, Inc., 9:07-CV-274, Docket No. 27 (Clark, J.); Transcript Procedures for Attorneys (2008)1; Local Rule CV-5.2. The policy protects four categories of personal data identifiers, namely social security and taxpayer-identification numbers, dates of birth, initials of minor children, and financial account numbers."

However, the district court warned the parties that it rarely redacted statements made in open court that were already in the public domain. "The Court warns the parties that it rarely redacts statements made in open court and thus already in the public domain unless they contain social security or taxpayer-identification numbers, dates of birth, initials of minor children, or financial account numbers or are impertinent, scandalous, or inadvertent disclosures of trade secrets. Redaction, unlike sealing of the record, permanently removes that portion from the transcript. As a result, the appellate court is deprived of the redacted information. It is inappropriate to allow a party or witness to make a statement in open court where the local news media could cover it, but to deprive the court of appeals from the full record. Without a specific showing of likely harm, the Court will not order redaction simply because a party deems the statements sensitive or confidential. Neither party in this case has demonstrated any such potential harm in their respective Motions."

The district court also found that there were practical difficulties in making such redactions. "In addition, the District's court reporters are busy individuals, providing their services for a myriad of courtroom proceedings including trials, claim construction hearings, motion hearings, status and case management conferences, and criminal proceedings. In a patent case, it is not unusual for transcripts to be requested--on an expedited basis--of nearly every hearing in the case. Further, the technology involved in a patent case typically increases the complexity of transcribing the proceedings. Allowing redactions any time would put an enormous burden on the District's court reporters."

The district court also noted that there were procedure for sealing the courtroom and that the parties used those procedure during the trial, but not for the particular information they now wanted redacted. "The Court has established procedures to seal the courtroom and transcript during hearings and trial to protect nonpublic, proprietary, and sensitive information. The Court expects the parties to recognize that such information should be protected and to make a motion, during trial or the hearing, before the sensitive information is disclosed in open court. Here, the parties and testifying witnesses were clearly well aware of the procedure required to seal the courtroom. Indeed, during the four-day bench trial, the courtroom was sealed on thirteen separate occasions."

Accordingly, the district court denied the motion to redact the transcripts.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation v. Cisco Systems, Inc., Case No. 6:11-cv-00343-LED (E.D. Tex. Apr. 16, 2014)

The authors of www.PatentLawyerBlog.com are patent trial lawyers at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP. We represent inventors, patent owners and technology companies in patent licensing and litigation. Whether pursuing patent violations or defending infringement claims, we are aggressive and effective advocates for our clients. For more information contact Stan Gibson at 310.201.3548 or SGibson@jmbm.com.