Risk Update

Lawyer Conflicts, DQ and Privacy Debates — Amazon’s In-house IP Attorney Gets a Conflicts Call, Law Professor Learns a Lesson

Software Co. Wants Amazon Atty DQ’d From Patent Suit” —

  • “MasterObjects wants a California federal judge to disqualify Amazon’s in-house lawyer and its outside counsel in a suit accusing the e-commerce giant of infringing search engine patents, saying the company’s staff attorney once worked for the law firm that filed a MasterObjects patent application in the early 2000s.”
  • “Scott Sanford, a senior in-house patent lawyer at Amazon.com Inc. who is leading the company’s defense case, once worked for MasterObjects Inc.’s long-standing patent prosecution firm, Fliesler Meyer LLP, according to a memo to disqualify him filed Monday. The software company said it only recently and “serendipitously” discovered Sanford’s two-year employment at the boutique firm that began in 2000, a job MasterObjects said he neglected to disclose.”
  • “‘Despite having dozens if not hundreds of calls or meetings about MasterObjects and its patents, including motions to depose Mr. Sanford’s former Fliesler Meyer colleagues, Mr. Sanford not once said, ‘Oh, by the way, I worked at Fliesler Meyer when the firm drafted the MasterObjects parent patent,” the motion said. ‘Why on earth not?'”

Chapman University says it didn’t authorize law prof’s representation of Trump, yet work was on server” —

  • “Law professors often use school emails when representing clients, but they may want to rethink that, following a recent subpoena sent to Chapman University from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol attack, seeking documents from former faculty member John Eastman.”
  • “The Jan. 20, 2022, subpoena relates to the constitutional law professor’s legal representation of former President Donald Trump and the 2020 election, and includes emails, contact lists and calendar entries on the university server.”
  • “Eastman had no expectation of privacy on the university server, and a written school policy said as much, according to the government’s Jan. 21 motion opposing Eastman’s TRO request.”
  • “Also, when Eastman logged on to the Chapman network, he was greeted with a splash screen message, stating that use of the system constitutes consent his activities or information could be subject to monitoring, according to the government’s filing. Eastman is a former dean of the law school, and has served on the faculty for more than 20 years.”
  • “‘I suspect most law professors assume their emails are private. This surprises me a bit because I often comment publicly that people too frequently are lulled into carelessness about what they say in emails and then are shocked that emails are discoverable—in situations ranging from divorces to congressional subpoenas,’ Catherine Ross, a George Washington University Law School constitutional law professor, told the ABA Journal in an email.”
  • “He [Michael O’Brien, an Anchorage, Alaska-based partner at Perkins Coie who represents colleges and universities in employment matters] adds that universities usually vet any legal work a law professor wants to take on, and the process includes a conflict-of-interest check… Eastman has argued that this was a service component of his academic work. Based on my review, I doubt it was pitched that way.”