Winston & Strawn DQ'd From Audio Tech IP Suit - Law360
Law360, Los Angeles (September 8, 2016, 6:54 PM ET) -- Winston & Strawn LLPwas disqualified from defending Dell Inc. in a patent fight with a technology licensing company, a Virginia federal judge ruled Wednesday after questioning a Winston lawyer who once represented Dell’s opponent in a case bringing similar infringement claims.
U.S. District Judge Henry Coke Morgan Jr. granted Audio MPEG Inc.’s motion to disqualify in a hearing on Wednesday after he’d called Winston lawyer Steven Anzalone as a witness and questioned him about the work he’d done for Audio MPEG before moving over to the firm, according to minutes posted in the court’s docket.
Judge Morgan said he would publish an opinion explaining his decision in detail, but it hadn’t been posted on the case’s docket late Thursday.
Winston had fought against the motion to disqualify the firm, saying that Anzalone wasn’t involved in the case and that Audio MPEG couldn’t show that the information Anzalone allegedly has about Dell’s legal opponent, “if any,” was being shared with the Dell team, court records show.
Winston and Dell said Audio MPEG has yet to demonstrate “any realistic possibility of prejudice to them arising from the alleged conflict” but has still pushed for such “drastic relief” as disqualification, according to the firm’s response brief on Aug. 31.
The firm pointed out that it’s been representing Dell in this case for eight months and it would take several more for a new firm “to get close” to its level of familiarity with the case and that Anzalone has never represented Dell during his time with Winston. Under those circumstances, the firm said, disqualifying it would be a drastic remedy.
The Virginia-based company sued Dell in December for infringement of U.S. Patent Nos 5,323,396, 5,777,992 and 5,539,829, which cover audio compression methods it characterized as the industry standard, causing the patents to be licensed out to hundreds of manufacturers, including Apple Inc., Sony Corp. and Lenovo Inc., according to court documents.
However, Dell has argued that because Audio MPEG’s patents are actually a part ofMicrosoft Corp.’s Windows operating system, which runs on most Dell computers, Dell is authorized to utilize the alleged audio encoding and decoding functionality.
The court in July rejected Dell's arguments that the patents at issue are actually invalid under the U. S. Supreme Court’s landmark Alice ruling, finding they do not merely represent an abstract computer idea since they work to improve the functioning of a computer by allowing more audio storage.
An attorney for Audio MPEG declined to comment. A representative for Dell didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Audio MPEG is represented by Stephen E. Noona of Kaufman & Canoles PC and Garrard R. Beeney, Stephen J. Elliott, W. Rudolph Kleysteuber, Michael P. Devlin, Jamie L. Kringstein and Andrew H. Ward of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.
Dell is represented by Charles B. Molster III of The Law Offices of Charles B. Molster III PLLC and Kimball R. Anderson, Kathleen B. Barry and Anthony D. Pesce of Winston & Strawn LLP.
The case is Audio MPEG, Inc. et al v. Dell, Inc., et al, case number 2:15-cv-00073, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
--Additional reporting by Kali Hays and Matthew Guarnaccia. Editing by Kelly Duncan.