Friday, March 27, 2015

Eagle Harbor Holdings Loses Patent Battle With Ford Motor Co.

A Tacoma jury just returned a verdict of non-infringement in favor of Ford Motor Company in a long patent and trade secrets battle with local technology company, Eagle Harbor Holdings. See the verdict form below.

Eagle Harbor Holdings and Ford Motor Company have been battling over a family of patents for nearly five years.  Dan Preston, the patriarch of EHH, has been involved in the automotive electronics industry for many years. He was part of the team that developed the OnStar system for General Motors.

Mr. Preston and his company worked with FoMoCo during the mid 2000s to help them develop a new automotive electronic system. However, it seems EHH and FoMoCo were unable to finalize the deal and parted ways, yet FoMoCo still came out with a couple of key technology systems that EHH said were straight rip-offs of EHH's patented technology.

The case has gone on for about 5 years, including some nasty back-and-forth with FoMoCo accusing Mr. Preston of stealing some of Ford's secret documents. The trial finally occurred this month, led by two of the legal industry's most well-known patent litigators:  Parker Folse for EHH and Bill Lee for FoMoCo.

Mr. Folse was counsel for Two-Way Media, which won a $40 Million verdict against AT&T that I have commented on a couple times.

Mr. Lee was counsel for Apple in the huge trial against Samsung in which a California jury returned a billion dollar verdict in favor of Apple.

Eagle Harbor Holdings v Ford Motor Co Verdict Form by John Whitaker

Thursday, March 19, 2015

DJ Punish Sues Sir Mix-a-Lot over "Baby Got Back"

David Ford, known professionally as DJ Punish, has sued Anthony Ray, better known as Sir Mix-a-Lot, to settle a question over Mr. Ford's joint authorship of a number of works that were created when the two were collaborating together in the early to mid 1990s.

The Whitaker Law Group is working with Gleam Law on the matter.

Big-Law Missed Deadline: Fed Cir Refuses To Disregard It

I posted earlier about a blunder that caused AT&T's patent firm to miss a deadline for filing a Notice of Appeal. Again, unless you're a lawyer, you may not appreciate how big a deal this is.  In litigation you can miss many deadlines without really feeling the pain. But not this one. The law says a judge can't ignore this deadline unless it's an exceptional situation.

So to summarize, AT&T's firm (1) lost a $40Million jury verdict, then (2) missed the deadline for appealing that verdict. So unless AT&T's lawyers were able to convince the Federal Circuit that their blunder was excusable, AT&T was stuck paying over $40Million. (Decision below).

Today, the Federal Circuit said, too bad. Well, two out of three judges said too bad. Personally, I really think what did them in was their forced-admission that AT&T had 15 lawyers on the matter, and not even a single one of them actually read the judge's order. And it didn't help that they all billed their client for doing so. Oops.

One think I know for sure: I'll be reading those ECF notices more carefully from now on.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Major Firms Laying Off Lawyers: Surprise, Surprise!

I almost feel like Nostradamus. I recently posted my skepticism (to put it kindly) about Law360's claim that the lawyers at the major firms have been as busy as ever, despite patent infringement filings being down by twenty percent. I think the word I used was bullshit.

I wrapped up that piece with the simple question: How long before Law360 reports that the "major firms" have announced some new layoffs in their patent litigation departments?

Well, as it turns out, not long.  Today (just 12 days since I predicted it), Law360 announces that several major firms are reducing their attorney headcount by 9 to 20 percent.

Is anyone surprised by this?

I actually think it's a little funny just how accurate my prediction was less than two weeks ago. Or it would be funny, if we weren't talking about people losing their jobs.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pharrell Hit "Blurred Lines" Results in $7.4 Million Jury Verdict

Wow.  Kind of surprising, really. Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke just got hit for about $7.4 Million for copyright infringement, so says the Los Angeles jury.

I'm actually surprised by this news. I've listened to the two songs, and I can't hear the similarities. But I guess that is why we have a jury system because reasonable minds can differ.

All in all, I'm not sure how upset Pharrell is.  He's still got a few coins in the bank, if this site is right about his $97 Million net worth.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Churn That Bill, Baby!

The good folks over at Law360 just wanted to let us know that the major firms are having no problem keeping their attorneys billing--I mean busy. If you don't know about Law360, it's a legal news source that sends blast emails with the day's latest legal news. They have a strong big-firm bias.

For quite a while now Law360 has been touting the virtues of all the recent Supreme Court decisions and their impact on patent litigation. For the last several months, about every other Law360 news blast seemed to be announcing that so-called "patent troll suits" are starting to wane due to recent Supreme Court's decisions, such as Alice and Octane Fitness.

For instance, in October, Law360 was proud to announce that year-over-year patent suits were down about 40% in September of 2014. Again, in February 2015, Law360 reminded us that the trend in patent litigation filings is definitely downward. That trend pretty much sums up new patent suits since about 2013.

So I and others have been wondering: "How long before the big firms start twiddling their thumbs?" Guess we have our answer now.

Thou doth protest too much, methinks.

On Friday, Law360 blasted their preemptive announcement: "Don't worry, the big firm lawyers are still busy even though patent suits are way, way down." According to Law360, the 20% reduction in lawsuits has had "virtually no effect" on "attorney workload"--which should be read "attorney billings."

That assertion is just flatly unbelievable on its face. What idiot believes that attorneys are just as busy when 20 percent of their new work vanishes. And yes, I said idiot.

Well, I'm no idiot. I am an active patent litigator and I know exactly what's happening. I talk to clients and my friends in other firms. The statement that big firm lawyers are just as busy with patent litigation despite 20 percent less work is, to put it frankly, bullshit.

Wonder why this Law360 piece reminds me of a post I wrote a little while back when a big law firm was caught churning its client's bills. In that piece, a client and his firm got crosswise, and a bunch of the firm's internal emails were revealed. In those, the lawyers were celebrating how high their bills were with snippets like this one:
Vince has random people working full time on random research projects in standard Vince "churn that bill, baby!" mode.
So when the big-firm lawyers say things like "we have 20 percent fewer cases to work on, but we're billing our clients the same amount," does that scare you? If you are a client of one of those big firms, it should.

I'll tell you what I think (in case you haven't already figured it out). That Law360 article is just the product of attorneys whose hubris prevents them from admitting that they aren't really sure where their new work will come from, but they don't want anyone else to know.

So my final question is this: How long before Law360 reports that (surprise, surprise) the "major firms" have announced some new layoffs in their patent litigation departments? Or even better, how long before we see this headline: Major Tech Client Sues Patent Litigation Firm Over Exorbitant Billing Practices?

Like I said, I'm no idiot.