Plaintiff Global Tubing, LLC (“Global”) filed a motion to compel production of documents withheld as privileged by Defendant Tenaris Coiled Tubes, LLC (“Tenaris”). As explained by the district court, in its motion to compel, Global claimed that Tenaris obtained its patents by deceiving the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”), withholding prior art in prosecuting the main patent, and then altering and withholding a key piece of the prior art. Global contended that Tenaris’ actions withholding the material from the PTO amounted to fraud, vitiating any attorney-client privilege under the crime-fraud exception. Global sought to compel documents withheld as privilege that were in the possession of the prosecution counsel relating to the prior art materials and those relating to inventorship of the three patents at issue. Global also sought to compel production of an affidavit submitted in support of the patent that Tenaris clawed back asserting that the privilege, if any, was waived and the affidavit contained direct evidence of Tenaris’ fraud on the PTO, vitiating any privilege under the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.
In support of the motion to compel the affidavit, Global presented evidence of Tenaris’ knowledge of the prior art materials, the inventors’ review and discussion of those materials and the overlapping specifications with the patent-in-suit. As explained further by the district court, Global also showed that Tenaris tendered the materials to prosecuting counsel, and counsel reorganized the material, removing the title page, divider pages, and entire specifications section, which purportedly contained information on overlapping chemistries, particularly significant in light of the PTO’s previous rejection of the patent based on obviousness that included overlapping chemistries. Continue reading