Chamberlain Group, Inc. v. Lear Corp., No. 05 C 3449, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 8, 2010) (Denlow, Mag. J.).
Judge Denlow granted in part defendant Lear's motion for sanctions in this patent case regarding universal garage door openers. Plaintiff Johnson Controls ("JCI") received an anonymous email from someone calling themselves "Kova Kova," offering documents regarding Lear's development of the accused garage door opener. JCI questioned the anonymous emailer as to the confidentiality and ethical obligations that might surround the offered documents. But despite not receiving a direct answer, JCI eventually met with Kova Kova and received emailed documents from Kova Kova. JCI, however, testified that it never opened the documents, sent as email attachments. JCI also suggested by email that it would consider offering Kova Kova an engineering position and tuition reimbursement, but in a later email made clear it would not pay Kova Kova for testimony or documents, although it would retain Kova Kova counsel.
While JCI's offers of a job and tuition were close, they were not a bribe. Chamberlain never explicitly offered any remuneration for testimony or documents. And immediately after mentioning an engineering position and tuition, JCI sent an email making clear that it would not pay for testimony or documents. JCI did, however, violate its duties by waiting more than nine months to produce Kova Kova's emails and documents. While that violation did not warrant dismissing the case as Lear requested, it did warrant exclusion of any evidence from or related to Kova Kova, including his testimony, and JCI's payment of Lear's attorney's fees related to the motion