SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Apple rejected conflict-of-interest claims in its use of attorneys who once worked for Samsung, claiming that the lawyers never had access to Samsung’s privileged information about patent strategy or business plans that would be relevant to current litigation.
Apple sued Samsung in April for trademark and trade-dress infringement, claiming Samsung’s Android line of cellphones and tablets are confusingly similar to Apple’s iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone, and that the products use icons similar to those used by Apple. Samsung countersued, alleging infringement of several of Samsung’s wireless communications patents.
Samsung balked when it learned that one of the firms working for Apple, Bridges & Mavrakakis, previously represented Samsung in a case with Sony Ericsson. The Korean tech giant says the 2006 Sony case exposed Bridges attorneys to sensitive information, including a litigation “playbook” that could be useful to Bridges’ current representation of Apple.
But Apple says the Sony case did not reveal privileged information about Samsung’s patent strategy or business plans that would be relevant to Apple’s current claims.
Disqualifying Bridges attorneys from the present case would be too “drastic,” as Samsung did not submit sufficient evidence of a “substantial relationship” between Apple’s claims and their prior work for Samsung, according to a 27-page filing by Apple.
“There is no substantial relationship between Apple’s claims and the prior work for Samsung,” Apple said. “There is, of course, a relationship between the prior work and Samsung’s claims, but Bridges never defended Apple from Samsung’s claims. Indeed, it has never worked on any of Apple’s defenses against Samsung’s claims, whether alone or with co-counsel.”
“Samsung insists that no matter how Bridges has limited its representation, disqualification is still mandatory because Samsung’s unrelated counterclaims create a conflict,” the document also states. “But Samsung’s tactics in fact militate against disqualification under the caselaw. Bridges should not be disqualified for a ‘conflict’ that it affirmatively sought to avoid and did not create.”