DURHAM – Wolfspeed CEO Gregg Lowe will not face a deposition about a meeting with President Biden even though Purdue University alleges Lowe may have talked with the president about a patent lawsuit and secured his intervention in the case.

The federal magistrate in the case ruled that Purdue’s argument for a deposition was not ” sufficiently plausible to support Lowe’s deposition.”

A filing in federal court  bars the university from talking with Lowe about what happened during Biden’s visit to Durham to tour Wolfspeed’s semiconductor factory as he touted legislation providing funding for use by chip firms – possible to include Wolfspeed. It is building a new plant in Chatham County, expanding operations in Durham and New York state, and plans a new factory in Germany.

In a lawsuit filed in 2021, Purdue has alleged Wolfspeed violated one of its semiconductor technology patents. The U.S. patent office reinstated Wolfspeed’s patent appeal two days after the Biden visit, Bloomberg News reported on April 3.

As first reported by Reuters,  U.S. Magistrate Judge L. Patrick Auld struck down Purdue’s demand to depose Lowe about what happened on Monday. On Thursday, the patent office again reinstated Wolfspeed’s patent challenge. Auld also ordered to pay legal and other costs associated with the case.

The ruling

Here’s the key paragraph of what the magistrate wrote in his 23-page decision:

“Under Plaintiff’s thesis, President Biden would have arrived in Durham for a series of primarily public events, privately engaged with Lowe about a very
technical matter involving an obscure federal office (the USPTO), agreed to influence the Director of the USPTO in exchange for unspecified support, subsequently communicated (or caused someone else to communicate) with the USPTO Director, and compelled her to pen a 10-page order, all within the span of 48 hours. The Court does not deem that highly speculative chain of supposition sufficiently plausible to support Lowe’s deposition.”

In concluding the decision, Auld wrote:

“Lowe’s deposition notice is STRICKEN and Plaintiff shall pay Defendant’s reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, incurred in litigating the [motion.] The record lacks a sufficient basis on which to permit the deposition of Defendant’s CEO, and any such deposition would duplicate discovery Plaintiff has obtained or readily could obtain in a less burdensome manner.”

Purdue and Wolfspeed aren’t talking. The PTO also declined comment, Reuters reported.