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Thursday, May 30, 2024 | Back issues
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Britannica Loses Latest Bout With Attorneys

(CN) - A federal judge ruled that Encyclopaedia Britannica's former patent attorneys Dickstein Shapiro did not engage in evasive discovery conduct and will not be judicially estopped from denying Britannica's invalid patents were infringed.

Britannica sued Dickstein Shapiro in 2010 for $250 million, claiming that the patent attorneys' malpractice resulted in it being denied two patent applications for groundbreaking multi-media search systems.

"Rather than a party in the PTO proceedings, Dickstein was counsel to Britannica itself," stated U.S. District Judge John Bates. "Hence, Britannica's judicial estoppel argument fails because judicial estoppel cannot apply to statements made by an entity that was not a party in the prior proceedings where the statements were made."

Britannica claimed Dickstein Shapiro tried to cover its tracks by pursuing a self-serving course of action with the U.S. Patent Office, and alerting its insurance company that Britannica would probably sue it for malpractice.

It claims it lost more than $250 million in infringement claims against companies that use its technology because of the malpractice.

"The errors and omissions that led to this valuable property loss and Dickstein's response to the admittedly negligent performance at issue are quintessential examples of hornbook malpractice," Britannica claimed in its complaint.The encyclopedia maker's latest motion -- meant to stop Dickstein Shapiro from denying the invalid patents were infringed -- was categorically denied and criticized by Judge Bates, who scolded Britannica's attorneys for not following court rules.

"Throughout the process, Britannica has fought over minor issues, insisting on filing motions over discovery disputes despite this Court's warnings against doing so when unnecessary," the judge stated. "And Britannica has repeatedly violated the court's local rules, failing to confer with opposing counsel before filing nondispositive motions."

Judge Bates ruled in favor of Dickstein Shapiro's motion for summary judgment, and ordered Britannica to pay the firm attorneys fees for its defense of the motion.

"The conduct of Britannica's counsel with respect to the motion for sanctions reflects a careless approach to the substantive law and local rule obligations, and a disregard of this court's warning against filing unnecessary discovery motions."

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