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Hernandez CaptionLawyers for both sides of Hernandez v. IGE jointly filed two motions this week asking the court for a status conference (.pdf) and asking the court to extend all key deadlines (.pdf). Exhibits include the first round of each side’s requests for production of documents and interrogatories, providing an early look at each side’s strategy.

For the background of this suit, see VB’s complete coverage of Hernadez v. IGE. Very briefly, the suit involves a not-yet-certified class of users led by Antonio Hernandez, who are suing virtual property dealer Internet Gaming Entertainment (IGE) for diminishing the intended World of Warcraft experience by spamming chat, farming gold, and engaging in a number of other activities that allegedly violate Blizzard’s Terms of Use.

If the motion seeking an extension is granted, trial will be moved out six months, from August 4, 2008 to February 16, 2009. Courts routinely — though not always — grant requests for extensions at this stage in a case. Here, because the sides are in agreement about the extension, because the case involves class action claims, and because IGE just brought in new lawyers, it is likely that the court will grant the request.

More interesting than the motion to extend the case calendar itself are the discovery requests that were attached to it as exhibits. Discovery requests aren’t usually filed publicly. Here, in order to show the court how complex discovery will be (and thus support their claim that they need more time) the parties attached the first round of requests.

For non-litigator readers, here’s a quick break down of the discovery process. In U.S. litigation, both sides send each other these “discovery requests.” The recipient is under an obligation to answer the questions posed truthfully and provide the documents requested — unless there is legally defensible reason not to comply. Sometimes, the fight over whether a party has to comply with particularly contentious requests ends up before the judge, who then either orders compliance or not, depending on the request and defenses.

Although there is a lot of early-case boilerplate here (defining terms, establishing official names of entities, etc.) the latter part of each of these documents provide a rare, early glimpse of each side’s strategy.

Although I do not comment extensively on tactics or issues in ongoing litigation for reasons described here, I will say that there are some pretty interesting requests in these documents, a few of which I’ve excerpted below.

  • Hernandez asks IGE to “produce all … information regarding individual invoices or other documents for purchases of virtual assets or real money trade including, but not limited to, customer names and addresses, prices, quantities, payments, purchase volume and price discounts, and other discounts.”
  • Hernandez also asks IGE to “identify every [IGE] affiliate, vendor, agent, or other party (‘Vendors’) who … marketed, distributed, and/or sold products or services relating to MMORPGs, particular WOW, to known or potential members of the Class including the Vendor’s full name and the name of any company or business association with the Vendor…”
  • Hernandez also seeks extensive information about IGE’s business relationships and virtual item sales, and to that end seeks testimony from an IGE corporate representative knowledgeable about a broad range of business practices and documents.
  • Finally, Hernandez has already scheduled depositions of key witnesses, including Brock Pierce, Jonathan Yantis, Mark Slayer, Steve Bannon, Matthew Smith, and Randy Maslow.
  • For its part, IGE asks Hernandez to provide “all documents evidencing or concerning your contention that IGE U.S. directly or indirectly ‘controls’ gold farmers and others who spam unsolicited advertisements…”
  • IGE also asks (somewhat oddly) for copies of Antonio Hernandez’s résumé, driver’s license, passport, and documents concerning any criminal charges against him, as well as recent screenshots of not only his, but also his attorneys’ “avatars (or ‘characters’) engaged in playing World of Warcraft.”
  • IGE also seeks information regarding whether Hernandez’s lawyers have engaged in RMT, asking Hernandez, “Have any of your attorneys of record ever purchased, sold, or otherwise exchanged World of Warcraft virtual property … for real money?”

It will be interesting to see how these play out if they’re objected to, and whether either of the parties will make the responses public. While responses, like requests, are typically not filed publicly, as we saw in the Marc Bragg case last year, there is nothing preventing either side from releasing responses that do not contain specially designated confidential information. VB is hopeful that one or both parties will choose to do that in this case.

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