Risk Update

IP Risk Week (Part 4) — Fight Over $540m Oil Refining Tech Precipitates Conflicts Allegation

Sills Cummis Faces Disqualification Bid in Battle Over Oil Refining Technology” —

  • “The disqualification motion says that Sills Cummis is conflicted out of representing plaintiff Pristec Refining Technologies, a closely held entity, because of the law firm’s concurrent duties to defendants who are constituent members of that company. In particular, Sills Cummis has duties to defendant Pristec America, which holds a 75% interest in Pristec Refining Technologies and owns the license to the technology that is at the center of the case, according to the motion.”
  • “The suit stems from a dispute over the operating and licensing agreements for a proprietary process for refining crude oil that promises to reduce waste and carbon emissions. That process, known as the Pristec Technology, has an estimated value of approximately $540 million, according to a court document.”
  • “In seeking to have Sills Cummis taken off the case, the defendants cite a 2014 Appellate Division ruling, Comando v. Nugiel. In that case, the Bridgewater, New Jersey, firm of Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus was held to have a disqualifying conflict of interest in representing one co-owner of a limited liability company in a dispute with the other co-owner after it represented the LLC in connection with its formation.”
  • “In Comando, the court held that Norris McLaughlin had represented the LLC at a time when it was owned by the two members, and, essentially, later sought to choose sides in the inter-company dispute, something that was prohibited under the Rules for Professional Conduct, O’Connor wrote.”