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CODA Development S.R.O. v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 21, 2019

CODA DEVELOPMENT S.R.O, et al., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER COMPANY, et al., DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE SARA LIOI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On November 1, 2019, the Court conducted a status conference wherein certain discovery disputes were discussed. (See Doc. Nos. 74, 76.) Following the conference, the Court issued a non-document minute order ruling in relevant part, as follows:

First, as to Interrogatory Nos. 1 [and] 2, . . . propounded by defendants on plaintiffs, by 11/16/2019, plaintiffs will provide (1) a description of what was said at the meetings in January and June 2009, and (2) a complete list of the trade secrets (with particularity) that they claim were orally disclosed to defendants, including detail as to when plaintiffs conceived of and developed each of the features in each trade secret. The Court made clear that additions to this list at a later time will be permitted only upon showing of an exceptional reason to do so. . . .

         (Minute Order 11/1/2019.[1]) The Court also directed counsel to brief “the issue of whether any description of what was said at the meetings may be supplemented at a later date or whether plaintiffs are bound by their written response.” (Id.) Those briefs have been submitted. (See Doc. No. 79 [“Defts' Brief”]; Doc. No. 80 [“Pltfs' Brief”].)[2]

         DISCUSSION

         In their first amended complaint, plaintiffs explain the “nature of the action” as follows:

1. This action arises out of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.'s (“Goodyear”) theft of Coda's secret self-inflating tire [“SIT”] technology. Coda shared with Goodyear its secret self-inflating tire technology, including specifically that a self-inflating tire could be created by embedding a tube in a groove in tire sidewalls that would act as a peristaltic pump and always keep the tire properly inflated. Goodyear promised that it would keep these trade secrets confidential and consider them solely to evaluate whether it would partner with Coda to develop Coda's self-inflating tire technology further. Instead, without Coda's knowledge, Goodyear applied for, and obtained, numerous patents on self-inflating tire technology based on Coda's trade secrets and now is about to introduce to the market it's “Air Maintenance Technology, ” a self-inflating tire made up of a tube embedded in a groove in the tire sidewall.
2. At the behest of General Motors (“GM”), Goodyear and Coda met in January 2009, and again in June 2009 to discuss a potential partnership for commercializing Coda's SIT technology. GM was interested in using Coda's SIT technology on the new Chevy Volt. GM suggested that Goodyear work with Coda to bring Coda's SIT technology to market because GM believed that Goodyear could deliver in time for the Volt's anticipated 2010 launch date.
3. At those two 2009 meetings, and in various communications, Coda fully educated Goodyear about its SIT technology. This included SIT technology that Coda had publicly disclosed in its own patent application filings and issued patents, as well as Coda's trade secret information that Coda has not publicly disclosed. Coda provided this information to Goodyear pursuant to a non-disclosure agreement.
4. At the first meeting in January 2009, among other things, Coda explained that it had produced a functional prototype, which generated sufficient pressure to inflate a vehicle tire. Following that meeting, representatives from Goodyear emailed Coda to ask for a second meeting so that Goodyear could perform a “technical readiness evaluation at your premises in Prague, in order to physically judge the concept feasibility on-site and to decide whether we will start a development project or not.” A Goodyear employee named Robert Benedict, who is a Defendant in this case, wrote separately to Mr. Hrabal and stated that “Our goal is to evaluate CODA's Self Inflating Tire technology. We would like to: View the updated technical presentation[, ] Review the prototype product[, and] Review testing methods and results.”
5. The second meeting occurred in June 2009. And just as Mr. Benedict requested, Mr. Hrabal showed Goodyear Coda's prototype at that meeting, along with covering other subjects, including those other subjects addressed in Mr. Benedict's email.
16. Ultimately, Goodyear did not move forward with a joint development project with Coda. Instead, on December 21, 2009, Goodyear filed two patent applications, claiming self-inflating tires based on the principles Mr. Hrabal shared with Goodyear. The first, United States Application Serial Number 12/643, 243, claimed a self-inflating tire with a pump tube in a sidewall groove- an invention that was conceived by Mr. Hrabal, maintained by Mr. Hrabal as a trade secret, disclosed to Goodyear under the terms and conditions of a non-disclosures agreement, and ultimately misappropriated by Goodyear. (footnote omitted)
17. In the years since, Goodyear has developed an extensive portfolio of patents on self-inflating tire technologies. Many of these patents also claim other trade secrets that were developed by Mr. Hrabal. And Goodyear now stands on the verge of introducing its self-inflating tire technology to the world. ...

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