Legal Translation of Documents Produced in Discovery

When Translated Documents Constitute New Information Learned Through Discovery and Provide Good Cause for Amending Pleadings

We’ve blogged about the importance of legal translation of foreign language documents in discovery. Simple Prods. Corp. v. Chia-ling Huang (D. Utah 2021) was recently decided and again highlighted the importance of translating legal documents from foreign languages to English in a precise, timely and accurate manner.

Background of Simple Prods. Corp. v. Chia-ling Huang

The Plaintiff, Simple Products, is a corporation that develops, designs, and distributes various products, including flashlights. It sought to add the Taiwanese corporation, Starforce, Incorp., as a defendant in this patent infringement action. Simple Products claimed new information from a recently translated document has “come to light” showing that Starforce, Incorp. has an ownership interest in the patent.

In 2018 Ms. Huang, a citizen of Taiwan, filed a patent infringement action against Simple Products claiming it sold flashlights which infringed on a design patent owned solely by Ms. Huang. However, Ms. Huang’s claims against Simple Products were dismissed in the Central District of California for improper venue. Thereafter, Simple Products filed this action against Ms. Huang seeking a declaratory judgment of non-infringement, invalidity, and unenforceability of the patent at issue. Ms. Huang counterclaimed and again claimed patent infringement.

Chinese Document Produced During Discovery- But Not Translated

In support of her claim, Ms. Huang produced an agreement between Starforce and another Taiwanese entity entitled “Non-Disclosure and Invention Rights Agreement”. The agreement is primarily in Chinese, except for the title and references to Starforce, which are in English.

In short, the parties in Simple Prods. Corp. v. Chia-ling Huang are relying on a Chinese document that conveys a claim to ownership to a flashlight patent. Yet the document had yet to be translated from Chinese to English prior to the commencement of the litigation.

The deadline to amend pleadings and add parties was July 10, 2020. At that time the Chinese document was still not translated to English. Simple Products eventually paid to have all documents produced by Ms. Huang in this case translated from Chinese to English, including this agreement. Simple Products received the translated agreement on January 22, 2021, well after the deadline to amend the pleadings or add parties. Immediately after receiving the translated document, Simple Products filed to amend the complaint to add Starforce as a defendant to the case when the translated document revealed that Starforce has an ownership interest in the flashlight patent at issue.

We forgot to translate the important document – Is that “good cause” under FRCP to amend pleadings after the deadline?

Simple Products sought to amend pleadings after the deadline under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The issue is whether good cause exists under Rule 16 for filing the motion to amend after the deadline set forth in the scheduling order. Another important issue is whether translating a document from a foreign language to English is considered “new information”.

Simple Products argues good cause exists to allow amendments after the deadline because it only recently learned of Starforce’s claimed ownership interest in the patent, based on its Chinese to English translation of the agreement in January 2021. Ms. Huang argues the motion to amend should be denied as untimely because the agreement was produced in November 2019 and Simple Products offers an inadequate explanation for the delay in translating it from Chinese to English. She also disputes Simple Products’ interpretation of the translated agreement, arguing it does not confer ownership rights but only addresses the manufacture and sale of the products at issue.

Holding- Translating a previously held document constitutes “new information”

However, the court held “the translated agreement constitutes new information learned through discovery and provides good cause for amendment after the deadline.” Additionally, the Court analyzed the document translated from Chinese to English, and found provisions indicating Starforce patent ownership and enforcement rights to the products.

Translate Foreign Language Discovery Documents to English

While the Court ruled in Starforce’s favor, Starforce could have avoided unnecessary costs and delays if they had translated the Chinese document timely and learned of the cause of action within the contract of which they were unaware as it was written in Chinese. More importantly, Simple Prods. Corp. v. Chia-ling Huang further highlights the importance of accurately translating documents involved in litigation to successfully overcome claims similar to Ms. Huang’s argument that the document was incorrectly translated.

Get in touch with All Language Alliance, Inc. early in the discovery process to have our experienced legal translators correctly and accurately translate particular legal and technical terms that are important to basis of potential claims from Simplified Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese.  Reach out to our legal translation service to retain competent Mandarin deposition interpreters, Mandarin arbitration interpreters, Cantonese deposition interpreters, Cantonese arbitration interpreters for in-person and virtual Zoom depositions and arbitrations.

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