Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Conflicts & Disqualifications (When Patent Counsel Goes In-house + More)

The IPethics and INsights blog provides a very interesting update and extensive analysis: "Sony Alleges Conflict Of Interest, Wants Acacia In-House And Outside Patent Litigation Counsel DQ’d" --
  • "Motions to disqualify opposing counsel are not uncommon, especially in patent litigation... A recent disqualification motion filed in a patent infringement case pending in the Central District of California seeks to stretch the limits of the imputed disqualification rule beyond the usual contours. See Nexus Display Technologies LLC v. Sony Electronics Inc., No. 2:14-cv-05693 (C.D. Cal. July 17, 2014)."
  • "On July 17, 2014, Nexus Display Technologies LLC (“NDT”) filed suit for patent infringement against Sony Electronics Inc. (“SEI”). NDT alleged that Sony infringed three patents. The complaint accused multiple Sony products, including Sony’s 'SXRD' projectors, of infringing NDT’s patents. The complaint was filed by Aliska Lipski of the law firm of Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C. (AZA). Ms. Lipski and AZA are the only counsel to have entered an appearance on behalf of NDT."
  • "At least two threshold questions exist as to the applicability of Rule 3-310(E) to Mr. Siegel. First, the term 'member' means member of the California State Bar. See Cal. Rule Prof. Cond. 1-100. Mr. Siegel is not a “member” of the California bar.  Interestingly, Mr. Siegel is a registered patent practitioner and thus is subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the USPTO."
  • "The motion seeks to impute Mr. Siegel’s alleged conflict to NDT’s outside litigation counsel at AZA. The motion states that, 'Without such vicarious disqualification, Sony would unfairly be left to wonder what Mr. Siegel (or others at Acacia with whom he has discussed [NDT’s] case against SEL) may have disclosed to AZA concerning Mr. Siegel’s extensive experience defending SEL in patent cases and working with many of the same people who are potential witnesses and/or decision makers in the present suit."
  • "Second, the motion fails to state or suggest that Mr. Siegel 'accept[ed] employment adverse to [his] former client' Sony, at least in the ordinary sense of those words. Yes, Mr. Siegel 'accepted employment' by Acacia.  He did so, however, well before either NDT was formed or NDT filed its lawsuit against Sony.  Rule 3-310(E) thus begs the question – what is meant by the term 'accept employment adverse to the former client?' The words appear literally to focus on the state of affairs at the time the 'member’s' 'employment' was 'accepted.' The motion to disqualify does not state Mr. Siegel’s “employment” was accepted at the time of, or with knowledge of, any adverse action against Sony."
And for those who recall an earlier conflicts allegation ("Ballard Spahr denies conflict of interest in Pat Turner's Westport case") -- the judge essentially took a pass on the question: "Bankruptcy dismissed in Westport development suit" --
  • "A federal bankruptcy court judge dismissed a Chapter 11 case related to developer Patrick Turner's ambitious waterfront development in South Baltimore, clearing the way for a foreclosure on the property."
  • "Attorneys for Inner Harbor West had argued that Ballard Spahr's involvement represented a conflict of interest, since the law firm worked on $160 million bond deal approved by the City Council and then-Mayor Sheila Dixon to pay for utility work, including roads, sewer and water lines, at the site."
  • "Gordon said bankruptcy court was not the proper venue to resolve those claims, although he said, "I have to wonder why Ballard Spahr would not simply decline representation. … There was certainly enough on the surface to make a plausible allegation.'"
  • "But Gordon said the dispute had no bearing on the bankruptcy. 'After mulling this over, I can't let the potential tail wag the dog — 'dog' a very appropriate word … for this Chapter 11 case — especially since there is no significant allegation made that the alleged conflict has any real impact at all on the debtor's ability to reorganize,' Gordon said."

No comments:

Post a Comment