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Knauf Insulation, LLC v. Johns Manville Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

October 15, 2019

KNAUF INSULATION, LLC, KNAUF INSULATION GmbH, KNAUF INSULATION SPRL, Plaintiffs,
v.
JOHNS MANVILLE CORPORATION, JOHNS MANVILLE, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONSE TO INTERROGATORY NO. 63

          MARK J. DINSMORE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel Response to Interrogatory No. 63 [Dkt. 507]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the motion.

         I. Background

         The Plaintiffs in this case (hereinafter referred to as “Knauf”) allege that certain insulation products manufactured and sold by the Defendants (hereinafter referred to as “JM”) infringe upon certain patents held by Knauf. Specifically, as relevant to the instant motion, Knauf alleges in its Fifth Amended Complaint that JM’s products infringe because of the bio-based binder they use.

         At issue in the instant motion is Knauf’s Interrogatory No. 63, which reads:

Do the people at JM that developed JM-212 bio-based binder, JM-2000 bio-based binder, or any other sugar-containing binder have an understanding of what is meant by the scientific term “Maillard reaction”? If so, separately state the understanding of each such person that has an understanding, and for each such person that does not have an understanding, please identify them by name.

         For purposes of this motion, Knauf has narrowed the interrogatory to ask about seven specific individuals (hereinafter referred to as “the Chemists”), each of whom is a current or former JM employee who is represented by JM’s counsel.

         II. Legal Standard

         A party may seek an order to compel discovery when an opposing party fails to respond to discovery requests or has provided evasive or incomplete responses. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(2)-(4). The burden “rests upon the objecting party to show why a particular discovery request is improper.” Kodish v. Oakbrook Terrace Fire Prot. Dist., 235 F.R.D. 447, 449-50 (N.D. Ill. 2006). The objecting party must show with specificity that the request is improper. Graham v. Casey’s Gen. Stores, 206 F.R.D. 251, 254 (S.D. Ind. 2002).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), generally “[p]arties 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.” Relevant information does not need to be “admissible to be discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

         III. Discussion

         The term “Maillard reaction” is used in some of the patents at issue in this case and was used by some JM employees in documents relating to the alleged infringing products. JM argues that the Chemists’ understanding of the term is irrelevant to the issues in this case. Knauf counters that JM has waived its objections to Interrogatory 63 as it applies to the Chemists and, in any event, the Chemists’ understanding of the term “Maillard reaction” is relevant to at least two issues in this case: claim construction and willful infringement.

         A. Waiver

         As noted above, Interrogatory 63 originally was very broad, seeking information regarding each of “the people at JM that developed” the allegedly infringing biobinders. Not surprisingly, JM objected to it on that basis. On May 8, 2019, Knauf proposed that JM limit its response to the Chemists. In response, on May 14, 2019, JM’s counsel stated in an email to Knauf’s counsel that “we are in the process of working with our client to schedule ...


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