No Conflict of Interest in Patent Fight With Apple

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Apple failed to persuade a federal judge that he should disqualify the law firm representing a company suing it for patent infringement.
     Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro represents Flatworld Interactives in its 2012 complaint against Apple related to patented touch-screen technology.
     Flatworld’s principal and co-founder is Jennifer McAleese, whose husband once worked for a law firm that does work with Apple.
     Though Morgan Lewis and Bockius has represented Apple since 2003 in various legal matters, including patent litigation, John McAleese worked as co-chair of the firm’s environmental practice while serving as a partner there.
     He had had nothing to do with intellectual property law or any matters involving Apple, but Apple claimed in a motion to disqualify Hagens Berman that the lawyer had somehow gotten a hold of confidential litigation information and funneled that information to his wife and Hagens Berman.
     U.S. District Judge William Orrick shot the maneuver down last week.
     “There is no evidence before the court that John McAleese personally obtained or even tried to access any material confidential information about Apple while with Morgan Lewis,” Orrick wrote. “Apple has pointed to no evidence that John McAleese passed on any confidential information about it or, indeed, actually had any confidential information to give.”
     The judge did find, however, that McAleese acted contrary to Apple’s interests by helping his wife find a law firm that would sue Apple for patent infringement. He put her in touch with Hagens Berman in February 2012. FlatWorld retained Hagens Berman in March, and filed its action against Apple in April 2012.
     “Although John McAleese acted as an attorney for FlatWorld contrary to his legal and professional duty, there is no evidence that he possessed material confidential information about Apple or, for that matter, that he communicated substantively with FlatWorld about this litigation such that Hagens Berman is tainted and should be disqualified as FlatWorld’s counsel,” Orrick wrote.
     The 17-page opinion also notes that Flatworld’s majority shareholder, co-founder Slavoljub Milekic, filed the patent at issue.

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