Microsoft is legally obligated to store an average of 60 million pages of documents for every lawsuit brought against it, even though only 88 of those will end up being used in court. The company revealed the startling statistics today as it announces its support for a federal proposal that would allow businesses to start preserving fewer documents for a lawsuit, a change that Microsoft says will making litigation cheaper and encourage defendants not to settle. "The burden of [the evidence "discovery" process] deters companies from defending themselves against meritless suits and slows the process of dispute resolution," Jon Palmer, Microsoft's assistant general counsel, writes in a blog posts. "Perhaps most importantly, it makes the United States a less attractive place to do business."
Microsoft stored 261 terabytes of documents during FY 2013
The change to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would narrow what documents need to be preserved for the discovery process of a civil trial. The Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, which oversees the civil procedure rules, proposed the changes in August for public comments, which will be coming in over the next several months. "While not perfect, these amendments could help reduce waste in the system without hampering litigants’ right to obtain evidence that is truly material," Palmer writes.
Microsoft doesn't disagree with discovery as an integral part of the legal process, it just thinks that the issue of document storage has gotten out of hand. Because there are so many ways to communicate nowadays, much more information needs to be stored and sorted through. Microsoft says that it's spent over $600 million on outside services to help with discovery over the past decade, and the number of documents it has to store has been rising quickly: in its 2010 fiscal year, Microsoft had to store 39 terabytes of data; by 2013, it had to store over six times that — 261 terabytes of documents.
But while 88 pages per case sounds unreasonably small given those annual totals, it's only an average. As major court battles like the one between Samsung and Apple have shown, troves of documents may be unearthed in the discovery process, and how many documents are available may even be fought over. At one point in the trial, Apple accused Samsung of destroying documents that it said may have prevented it from calling on a countless number of witnesses. Microsoft argues that the changes won't alter any company's ability to acquire evidence, and when the proposals are finally ruled on, Palmer says that Microsoft is confident that the rules' governing bodies will see them as the right change to make.