from the no-evidence-that-destroyed-evidence-was-relevant...-wait,-what? dept
Rambus is perhaps best known for a move that took place well over a decade ago, shortly before it went into the innovation-via-litigation business.
On Friday, Whyte found that Rambus destroyed documents when it anticipated litigation. Specifically, Whyte said, Rambus employees were told to destroy documents at annual "shred days," from 1998 to 2000, prior to filing the patent suits."Annual shred days?" The fact that Rambus had not only a periodic event but a nickname for the event should probably be taken as an indication that the "company" needed to rid itself of possibly damning paperwork. It calls to mind something akin to mobsters moving suitcases of cash to their mothers' houses ahead of a RICO investigation.
Because litigation was "reasonably foreseeable," Whyte ruled, Rambus should had preserved the documents.
"Rambus engaged in spoliation of evidence when it engaged in the destruction of documents on all three shred days," the 66-page ruling states.
Now, many companies will annually shred financial documents, personnel files, etc. that have reached the expiration date of federal and state retention requirements. However, what Rambus did hardly sounds like just being tidy, despite its "engineers are messy" defense.
Rambus countered that its engineers tended to be "pack rats" and said that its policy was justified...SK Hynix had brought Rambus' "shredding days" to the attention of the disctrict court back in 2005, claiming that "Rambus had spoliated evidence and that its 'unclean hands' warranted dismissal of 15 infringement claims." This claim was dismissed and in 2011, US District Judge Ronald Whyte ordered SK Hynix to pay $397 million in royalties. On appeal, Whyte reexamined Hynix's claims and found that Rambus had indeed shredded plenty of documents, but possibly nothing relevant.
"The evidence does not show that Rambus knowingly destroyed damaging evidence," Whyte said.He also gave Rambus a bit of a post-facto warning.
"Although the evidence does not support a conclusion that Rambus deliberately shredded documents it knew to be damaging, the court concludes that Rambus nonetheless spoliated evidence in bad faith or at least willfully," he added.
Because litigation was "reasonably foreseeable," Whyte ruled, Rambus should had preserved the documents.Then there's this, in which Whyte states that the litigation might have gone differently if no documents had been shredded.
"Even if none of the destroyed documents would have shed new light on the disclosure obligation, there may have been internal Rambus documents containing information about Rambus' plans to gain market power by using information learned at [Joint Electron Device Engineering Council] JEDEC meetings. Such evidence could have been relevant and given support to Hynix's equitable claims and defenses," Whyte said.Despite all this, SK Hynix is still on the hook for royalties. The $397 million might be reduced, but any reduction would have more to do with royalties Rambus has already collected from other companies, rather than any excessive shredding or the fact that it basically reverse engineered its patents to cover new industry standards. Unfortunately for SK Hynix, the shredding that has already resulted in two Rambus infringement suits being tossed out doesn't seem to be doing much for it.
"The court concludes that Hynix has made a plausible, concrete suggestion that it may have been prejudiced by destruction of JEDEC-related documents, and that Rambus has not overcome this suggestion of prejudice by clear and convincing evidence."