Monday, June 6, 2016

IP Matters, IP Conflicts, IP Insights

Michael E. McCabe, Jr. does some excellent reporting and analysis on IP matters. Here's some of his latest work worth noting:

"Mass. Court Nixes Conflict Claim Against Gillette Former In-House IP Attorney Who Provided Competitor With Infringement Opinions Regarding Ex-Client’s Patents" --
  • “On May 5, 2016, a Massachusetts state court dismissed Gillette’s claims for breach of fiduciary duty against its former in-house IP counsel who left Gillette and went to work for a competitor, where he used allegedly privileged information gained during his prior employment and helped his new employer analyze and avoid infringement of Gillette’s patents—including patents over which he oversaw prosecution.”
  • “The court held that Gillette’s amended complaint failed to state claims for breach of fiduciary duty as a matter of law.  Consequently, the court dismissed with prejudice Gillette’s claims against its former in-house attorney.   See The Gillette Co. v. Provost, No. 1584CV00149-BLS2 (Mass. Super. Ct. May 5, 2016) (order granting motion to dismiss).”
  • “The court noted at the outset that Mr. Cekala’s fiduciary duty as former counsel to Gillette is “narrower” than the broad and undivided duty of loyalty that Mr. Cekala owed to Gillette when he represented the company as its in-house patent counsel. Since Gillette was Mr. Cekala’s former client, his ethical duties were limited by Massachusetts law, in particular Mass. R. Prof. Conduct 1.9, to preserve his former client’s confidential information and secrets.”
  • “Second, the fact that Mr. Cekala “developed expertise” regarding the scope of some of Gillette’s patents while he worked for Gillette are “beside the point” since issued patents are public documents.  The court explained that, “nothing in Rule 1.9 bars a lawyer from using publicly available information” or expertise acquired while representing a former client to help a new client compete against the former client.”
"IP Conflicts of Interest, Hot Potatoes, and “The Game of [Litigation] Life”"--
  • “Plaintiffs, alleged owners of the IP rights to the “The Game of Life”, want to end up on Millionaire Estates.  Defendants, including the toy company that has been making and selling “The Game” for decades, are trying to keep themselves out of the Poor Farm.  All of them are lawyered up and “spinning the wheel” of federal district court IP litigation.  See Markham Concepts, Inc. v. Hasbro, Inc., Case No. 1:15-cv-419-S-PAS (D.R.I. Oct. 2, 2015).”
  • “Just like real life (and frankly The Game of Life itself), the litigation, which has been pending for seven months, recently spawned an unexpected turn.  No, it was not the birth of twins or an income tax bill, as might occur in the Game.  Instead, defendants have moved to disqualify plaintiff’s IP counsel, the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, for an alleged concurrent client conflict of interest.”
  • “At issue in this case is whether a law firm which knows that it is about to become adverse to a current client, and which requested and was denied a waiver of the conflict from its client, can then withdraw from representing the client and promptly represent a party adverse to its “former” client.  In ethics parlance, a “withdrawal” under these circumstances is sometimes referred to as a “hot potato drop.”  Also at issue is whether a purported advanced waiver of conflicts, which states that a client will not “unreasonably” withhold its consent to a future conflict, is enforceable, and even if it is enforceable, whether the law firm under the facts of this matter “unreasonably” withheld its consent to the waiver.”

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