Source code ch.10: Spoliation

Source Code & Software Patents: A Guide to Software & Internet Patent Litigation for Attorneys & Experts
by Andrew Schulman (
Detailed outline for forthcoming book

Chapter 10: Incomplete source-code productions, missing source code, and spoliation

10.1 Under-production & over-production (“dumping”) of source code

  • 10.1.1 Producing party’s up-front assertion of source-code unavailability
  • 10.1.2 Incompleteness of source-code production detected by examiner (see chapter 16)
  • 10.1.3 Discrepancies found by expert may trigger further inspection (low-level disk image, etc.)
  • 10.1.4 Over-production (“dumping”)

10.2 Reasons why some source code may be missing

  • 10.2.1 Both legitimate & illegitimate reasons
  • 10.2.2 Cases with “egregious” vs. understandable reasons for source-code loss
  • 10.2.2B Interaction of source code loss with owner’s “crown jewel” assertions of source-code value
  • 10.2.3 “What, no version-control system?”: Overwriting of source code in the ordinary course of development
  • 10.2.4 Overwriting of source code despite preservation obligations
  • 10.2.5 The “balkanized team” approach: Source code missing from central repository [often contradicts vendor claims of “integrated” software; example of Microsoft Windows Media Player]
  • 10.2.6 Source code in possession/custody/control of third party
  • 10.2.7 Asserted inability to produce because third party’s code is “intermingled” with party’s code [3rd party may intervene to block production of its source code]

10.3 Source code available but modified or “redacted” in production

  • 10.3.1 Loss/modification of source-code metadata, especially date/timestamps
  • 10.3.2 “Redaction” of source-code comments
  • 10.3.3 Producing “scrubbed” or sanitized (public) version of source code
  • 10.3.3 Asserted undue cost/burden of locating or restoring older archived code

10.4 Spoliation

  • Legal definition of spoliation
  • Depends in part on willfulness/intent
  • Depends in part on relevance and importance of the lost evidence (“no harm, no foul”)
  • Speculative vs. likely-known value of missing source code

10.5 Sanctions for spoliation

  • Sanctions when prejudice to party
  • Prejudice to party requires that missing evidence be “necessary” not merely helpful?
  • Dependence of sanctions on relevance, issues in case, anticipated facts
  • Availability of alternative (less-than-“best”) evidence for the same point?
  • Adverse inferences from loss/destruction of evidence
  • Rebuttable presumptions from loss/destruction of evidence (presume facts would have been unfavorable to losing/destroying party)
  • Jury free to consider loss/destruction of evidence
  • Monetary sanctions for client and/or attorney
  • “Death penalty” sanctions
  • Seeming oddly-unrelated sanctions for loss of evidence
  • Requesting party’s tactical benefits from opponent’s loss (or stated inability to find) any requested evidence
  • Relationship of source-code loss to burdens of production & proof

Source code spoliation cases

  • Adams v. Dell/Winbold (speculative value of original source code; safe harbor?; failure to preserve IFDC.exe source code violated duty, but sanction only if prejudice)
  • VocalSpace v. Lorenso (no sanction, but jury free to consider)
  • i4i v. Microsoft (relationship of source-code loss to burden of proof/production)
  • Keithley v. (“egregious” spoliation)
  • Juniper Networks v. Toshiba (source code code “unavailable”)
  • Rosenthal Collins v. Trading Tech. (backdating files; code found in barn; authentication)
  • Big Baboon v. Dell (6 files referenced by produced code, but not produced)
  • 3Com v. D-Link (Realtek) (missing versions)
  • Fleming v. Escort (“redaction” of comments)
  • GE v. SonoSite (both sides say “documents don’t exist” re: source code)
  • Fresenius Med. v. Baxter (deponent identified source code not produced; discrepancy; incomplete production)
  • Clear One v. Chiang (copyright case; required to produce complete source code with comments)
  • SCO v. IBM (destruction of AIX, Dynix source code?)

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