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Case TitleLegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C. v. United States Patent & Trademark Office
DistrictNorthern District of California
CitySan Francisco
Case Number3:2019cv05935
Date Filed2019-09-23
Date ClosedOpen
JudgeJudge William Alsup
PlaintiffLegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.
Case DescriptionLegal Force RAPC Worldwide, a law firm specializing in filing U.S. trademark applications, submitted a FOIA request to U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for records concerning why Sapp, another company, received preferential treatment compared to other trademark firms. The agency acknowledged receipt of the request. The agency ultimately denied the request under Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy). RAPC filed an administrative appeal. RAPC also filed an appeal with the Office of Government Information Services. The agency acknowledged receipt of the appeal. The agency then denied the appeal based on Exemption 6. RAPC then filed suit.
Complaint issues: Adequacy - Search, Litigation - Attorney's fees

DefendantUnited States Patent & Trademark Office
Documents
Docket
Complaint
Complaint attachment 1
Complaint attachment 2
Opinion/Order [32]
FOIA Project Annotation: A federal court in California has ruled that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office properly responded to a FOIA request from LegalForce RAPC Worldwide seeking records on the agency's investigation into Heather Sapp, one of the company's attorneys and a former PTO attorney, for possible violation of the agency's document signing and submission rules. The investigation was concluded with a settlement and public reprimand. LegalForce submitted a four-part request for records pertaining to the investigation of Sapp. The agency search located 3,109 pages, disclosed 31 pages in full and withheld 3,078 pages in full under Exemption 5 (privileges), Exemption 6 (invasion of privacy), and Exemption 7(C) (invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records). The agency conducted a second search and found an additional 170 pages, disclosing 83 pages and withholding 75 pages in full. The agency also reconsidered its original withholding decisions and released 143 pages, in full and 575 pages in part. After reviewing withheld documents in camera the court found that some records withheld under the attorney work product privilege did not qualify for the privilege. The court noted that "a document, otherwise discoverable, does not become undiscoverable merely because an attorney has reviewed it." The court added that "recall, the exemption covers agency generated documents " it doesn't cover non-agency authored documents. [The disputed document] contains no agency generated material. Instead, it contains email threads between Ms. Sapp and [PTO attorney] Mr. Abhyanker " plaintiff's own email records " and a memorandum from outside ethics counsel." Although under the circumstances of such a request, one would think that Sapp had provided a privacy waiver to her employer to resolve the privacy exemption issue, the court indicated that the agency claimed that disclosure of records identifying Sapp were "clearly an unwarranted invasion of Ms. Sapp's personal privacy generally and an unwarranted invasion of her personal privacy interest in law enforcement documents involving her. Despite the fair opportunity to challenge these grounds in its opposition brief, plaintiff did not. No public interest articulated to overcome Ms. Sapp's privacy interest, [the disputed document] was appropriately withheld under Exemption 6 and Exemption 7(C)."
Issues: Exemption 5 - Privileges - Attorney-client privilege, Exemption 6 - Invasion of privacy, Exemption 7(C) - Invasion of privacy concerning law enforcement records
User-contributed Documents
 
Docket Events (Hide)
Date FiledDoc #Docket Text

2019-09-231COMPLAINT for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief for Violation of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552 against United States Patent & Trademark Office ( Filing fee $ 400, receipt number 0971-13729303.). Filed byLegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit, # 2 Civil Cover Sheet)(Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/23/2019) (Entered: 09/23/2019)
2019-09-242Proposed Summons. (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-243Certificate of Interested Entities by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C. re 1 Complaint, (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-244CONSENT/DECLINATION to Proceed Before a US Magistrate Judge by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C... (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-245ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b) of discussion of ADR options (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-246ERRATA re 1 Complaint, fixing the Case Number per request of Clerk to remove initials MMC for random assignment by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-247ERRATA re 5 ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b)of discussion of ADR options fixing the Case Number per request of Clerk to remove initials MMC for random assignment by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-248ERRATA re 4 Consent/Declination to Proceed Before a US Magistrate Judge fixing the Case Number per request of Clerk to remove initials MMC for random assignment by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-249ERRATA re 3 Certificate of Interested Entities fixing the Case Number per request of Clerk to remove initials MMC for random assignment by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-2410ERRATA re 2 Proposed Summons fixing the Case Number per request of Clerk to remove initials MMC for random assignment by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Abhyanker, Raj) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-2411Case assigned to Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley. Counsel for plaintiff or the removing party is responsible for serving the Complaint or Notice of Removal, Summons and the assigned judge's standing orders and all other new case documents upon the opposing parties. For information, visit E-Filing A New Civil Case at http://cand.uscourts.gov/ecf/caseopening. Standing orders can be downloaded from the court's web page at www.cand.uscourts.gov/judges. Upon receipt, the summons will be issued and returned electronically. Counsel is required to send chambers a copy of the initiating documents pursuant to L.R. 5-1(e)(7). A scheduling order will be sent by Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) within two business days. Consent/Declination due by 10/8/2019. (as, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-2412Initial Case Management Scheduling Order with ADR Deadlines: Case Management Statement due by 12/19/2019. Initial Case Management Conference set for 12/26/2019 01:30 PM in San Francisco, Courtroom F, 15th Floor. (slhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-2413Summons Issued as to United States Patent & Trademark Office. (slhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/24/2019) (Entered: 09/24/2019)
2019-09-2614CLERK'S NOTICE OF IMPENDING REASSIGNMENT TO A U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: The Clerk of this Court will now randomly reassign this case to a District Judge because either (1) a party has not consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge, or (2) time is of the essence in deciding a pending judicial action for which the necessary consents to Magistrate Judge jurisdiction have not been secured. You will be informed by separate notice of the district judge to whom this case is reassigned. ALL HEARING DATES PRESENTLY SCHEDULED BEFORE THE CURRENT MAGISTRATE JUDGE ARE VACATED AND SHOULD BE RE-NOTICED FOR HEARING BEFORE THE JUDGE TO WHOM THIS CASE IS REASSIGNED. This is a text only docket entry; there is no document associated with this notice. (ahm, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/26/2019) (Entered: 09/26/2019)
2019-09-2615ORDER, Case Reassigned using a proportionate, random, and blind system pursuant to General Order No. 44 to Judge William Alsup for all further proceedings. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley no longer assigned to the case. Notice: The assigned judge participates in the Cameras in the Courtroom Pilot Project. See General Order No. 65 and http://cand.uscourts.gov/cameras.. Signed by The Clerk on 9/26/19. (Attachments: # 1 Notice of Eligibility for Video Recording)(haS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/26/2019) (Entered: 09/26/2019)
2019-09-2616CLERK'S NOTICE SCHEDULING CMC ON REASSIGNMENT: Case Management Statement due by 1/9/2020. Initial Case Management Conference set for 1/16/2020 11:00 AM in San Francisco, Courtroom 12, 19th Floor. Standing orders can be downloaded from the Court's webpage at www.cand.uscourts.gov/whaorders. (This is a text-only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.) (tlhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/26/2019) (Entered: 09/26/2019)
2019-09-2717SUMMONS Returned Executed by LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. United States Patent & Trademark Office served on 9/26/2019, answer due 11/25/2019. (Ma, Wensheng) (Filed on 9/27/2019) (Entered: 09/27/2019)
2019-10-2818Defendant's ANSWER to Complaint by United States Patent & Trademark Office. (Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 10/28/2019) Modified on 10/29/2019 (amgS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 10/28/2019)
2020-01-0919JOINT CASE MANAGEMENT STATEMENT filed by United States Patent & Trademark Office and LegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C. (Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 1/9/2020) Modified on 1/10/2020 (amgS, COURT STAFF). (Entered: 01/09/2020)
2020-01-1620ADR Certification (ADR L.R. 3-5 b) of discussion of ADR options (Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 1/16/2020) (Entered: 01/16/2020)
2020-01-1621CASE MANAGEMENT ORDER. Signed by Judge Alsup on 1/16/2020. (whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/16/2020) (Entered: 01/16/2020)
2020-01-1622Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge William Alsup: Initial Case Management Conference held on 1/16/2020. Case Management Order to follow with deadlines. (Total Time in Court: 11 minutes) Court Reporter: Ana Dub. Plaintiff Attorney: Raj Abhyanker, Wensheng Ma. Defendant Attorney: Kenneth Brakebill. (This is a text-only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.) (tvnS, COURT STAFF) (Date Filed: 1/16/2020) (Entered: 01/22/2020)
2020-02-2723MOTION for Summary Judgment ; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion filed by United States Patent & Trademark Office. Motion Hearing set for 4/2/2020 08:00 AM in San Francisco, Courtroom 12, 19th Floor before Judge William Alsup. Responses due by 3/12/2020. Replies due by 3/19/2020. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration of Tricia Choe, # 2 Exhibit A-H, # 3 Proposed Order)(Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 2/27/2020) (Entered: 02/27/2020)
2020-03-1224OPPOSITION/RESPONSE (re 23 MOTION for Summary Judgment ; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion ) filed byLegalForce RAPC Worldwide P.C.. (Ma, Wensheng) (Filed on 3/12/2020) (Entered: 03/12/2020)
2020-03-1925REPLY (re 23 MOTION for Summary Judgment ; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion ) REPLY IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; SUPPLEMENTAL DECLARATION OF TRICIA CHOE filed byUnited States Patent & Trademark Office. (Attachments: # 1 Declaration)(Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 3/19/2020) (Entered: 03/19/2020)
2020-03-2626ORDER RE APRIL 2 HEARING DUE TO PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN. Signed by Judge Alsup on 3/26/2020. (whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/26/2020) (Entered: 03/26/2020)
2020-03-2627CLERK'S NOTICE RE 4/2/2020 HEARING: Motion Hearing re 23 MOTION for Summary Judgment set for 4/2/2020 8:00 AM will be held telephonically. Counsel shall use the following dial-in information to access the call: Teleconference Number: 888-684-8852 Access Code: 3707514 Please allow adequate time to check-in with the courtroom deputy. Counsel may dial-in to the call 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time. (This is a text-only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.) (tlhS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/26/2020) (Entered: 03/26/2020)
2020-03-3128ORDER RE HEARING. Signed by Judge Alsup on 3/31/2020. (whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 3/31/2020) (Entered: 03/31/2020)
2020-04-0129Declaration of Tricia Choe (Second Supplemental Declaration) in Support of 28 Order, 23 MOTION for Summary Judgment ; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion Second Supplemental Declaration of Tricia Choe filed byUnited States Patent & Trademark Office. (Related document(s) 28 , 23 ) (Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 4/1/2020) (Entered: 04/01/2020)
2020-04-0230Minute Entry for proceedings held before Judge William Alsup: Motion Hearing re 23 MOTION for Summary Judgment held on 4/2/2020. Matter taken under submission. Government shall submit the 4 documents in camera to chambers by Wednesday, 4/8/2020. Court to issue written order. (Total Time in Court: 31 minutes.) Court Reporter: Ana Dub. Plaintiff Attorney: Wensheng Ma. Defendant Attorney: Ken Brakebill. (This is a text-only entry generated by the court. There is no document associated with this entry.) (tlhS, COURT STAFF) (Date Filed: 4/2/2020) (Entered: 04/03/2020)
2020-04-0831NOTICE by United States Patent & Trademark Office re 30 Motion Hearing,, Notice of In Camera Lodging Pursuant to April 2, 2020 Hearing On Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment (Attachments: # 1 Exhibit 1)(Brakebill, Kenneth) (Filed on 4/8/2020) (Entered: 04/08/2020)
2020-04-1632ORDER GRANTING 23 SUMMARY JUDGMENT. SIGNED BY JUDGE ALSUP. (whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/16/2020) (Entered: 04/16/2020)
2020-04-2533JUDGMENT. Signed by Judge Alsup on 4/25/2020. (whalc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/25/2020) (Entered: 04/25/2020)
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