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Zoomessence, Inc. v. International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 23, 2013

ZOOMESSENCE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS AND FRAGRANCES, INC., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TONIANNE J. BONGIOVANNI, Magistrate Judge.

This matter comes before the Court upon Defendant International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc.'s ("IFF") motion to bifurcate the trial of this matter and to stay all damages-related discovery. [Docket Entry No. 112]. Plaintiff ZoomEssence, Inc. ("ZE") opposes IFF's motion. The Court has fully reviewed and considered all of the papers submitted in support of and in opposition to IFF's motion and considers same without oral argument pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 78. For the reasons set forth more fully below, IFF's motion is DENIED.

I. Background and Procedural History

The parties and the Court are all familiar with the facts underlying this litigation. As such, they are not restated at length herein. This is an action for misappropriation of a trade secret, breach of contract and the duty of good faith and fair dealing while engaged in that misappropriation, as well as common law unfair competition and unjust enrichment. ( See Compl. ¶¶ 56-76; Docket Entry No. 1). ZE claims that IFF's product "tru2Nature" was created by IFF after ZE shared its trade secrets and technology with it and that IFF misused ZE's proprietary information and technology to create same. ( Id . ¶¶ 54-55).

II. Arguments

A. IFF's Argument

IFF argues that it would be efficient for the Court to bifurcate the trial of this matter into two phases: liability and damages, with the Court only addressing damages if ZE succeeds on liability. In addition, IFF argues that all discovery related to damages should be stayed pending a determination on IFF's liability for the claims raised by ZE.

1. Bifurcation

IFF argues that under FED.R.CIV.P. ("Rule") 42(b), the Court has "broad discretion in separating issues and claims for trial." ( IFF's Brief in Support at 10; Docket Entry No. 112-3 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). IFF contends that bifurcation is appropriate where "(a) the issues to be decided are complex, and the fact finder is likely to become confused; (b) there will be little overlap in the testimony related to liability and the testimony related to damages; (c) a single trial will cause unnecessary delay; and (d) bifurcation will promote settlement." ( Id. at 10-11). IFF maintains that each factor falls in favor of bifurcating the trial of this action.

a. Complexity of Issues

IFF submits that the testimony and evidence that will be presented concerning both liability and damages "will be lengthy, complex, convoluted and confusing to the laypeople serving as jurors." ( Id. at 12). IFF argues that the testimony regarding the spray-drying process will contain evidence on:

(a) chemical processes, engineering and industry-specific manufacturing processes; (b) the knowledge in the industry of specific scientific evidence and theories that ZE claims as its own; (c) IFF's pre-existing knowledge of similar such evidence and theories; and (d) the similarities (if any) and differences between the highly-technical, science and engineering-driven processes used by ZE and IFF to create their respective flavored powders.

( Id. ) IFF places heavy emphasis on the fact that ZE failed to obtain injunctive relief against it, arguing that "ZE will undoubtedly redouble its efforts to make such a showing" and that the "scientific and technical evidence... will undoubtedly be repeated, expanded and amplified during a jury trial." ( Id. at 13) IFF argues that lay and expert testimony will be proffered on both liability and damages and that the jury will have difficulty understanding and separating these distinct issues.

IFF highlights that ZE's four causes of action seek different measures of relief, including damages, remuneration and disgorgement of profits. ( Id. at 14). IFF argues that there are subtle differences between each form of relief and that such minor distinctions may be inadvertently overlooked by the jury. IFF maintains that "[t]he only way that the jury will be able to fairly assess the amount of damages, if any, is if the specific liability findings are determined before the jury hears any damages testimony, ...


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