Much ado about patent lawyers

July 12, 2011, 12:45 PM UTC

Apple changes its in-house legal guard. Samsung wants Apple’s outside counsels ousted

Apple's BJ Watrous

On the heels of a Reuters report that Apple’s (AAPL) chief patent counsel has been replaced by Hewlett-Packard’s (HPQ) top intellectual properties attorney (something that, according to their LinkedIn profiles, may have happened two months ago), comes a 20 page motion from Samsung asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to throw out most, if not all, of Apple’s outside counsels, in their case in that district.

The changing of the guard at Apple legal involves Richard “Chip” Lutton Jr., who has managed Apple’s patent portfolio for several years, and BJ Watrous, who until recently led HP’s patent, copyright and trademark practices. Reuters‘ sources say Lutton will leave Apple shortly, although his LinkedIn page still has him on the job. Watrous’ page lists him as serving Apple as its vice president and chief IP counsel for the past two months.

The report on Samsung’s latest legal broadside comes from FOSS Patents‘ Florian Mueller.
“The gist of it,” he writes, “is that Samsung wants the recently-founded law firm of Bridges & Mavrakakis barred from the case because at least five of its lawyers — including one of its founders, Kenneth Bridges — previously represented Samsung while they were with another firm, Kirkland & Ellis. Samsung then goes on to argue that this fact “taints all attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis through imputation.” But not enough: Samsung additionally demands that Apple’s two other law firms involved with this federal lawsuit (Morrison & Foerster and Wilmer Hale) “provide affidavits confirming they have not received any Samsung confidential information from attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis” while those firms were coordinating Apple’s representation so far or, absent such assurance, be disqualified as well.”
According to Mueller, at least 48 Android-related lawsuits have now been filed — including a new suit filed by Apple against Samsung at the U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday. With billions of dollars at stake, the players seem to be leaving no legal stone unturned.