Risk Update

Law Firm Conflicts Contention — ‘Substantially Related’ Debated in IP Fight, Blizzard Independent Law Firm Auditor Allegation

Tech Co. Fights AT&T Bid To Disqualify Its Ex-BigLaw Attys”

  • “U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla shouldn’t disqualify the trio of attorneys based on ‘prior matters from a decade or more ago involving different patents, different products, and different technology,’ Network Apps LLC told the court Thursday in a lightly redacted filing.”
  • “Though AT&T claims the three attorneys — Kevin Cadwell, formerly of Baker Botts, and Akin Gump alumni David Clonts and Michael Reeder — worked on matters that were ‘substantially related’ to the patent in this case, Network Apps said in its motion AT&T’s argument ‘quickly unravels under the proper legal standard.'”
  • “‘In the context of patent litigation, when neither the patent nor the accused product overlap with the previous matters, no substantial relationship exists to warrant disqualification,’ Network Apps said.”
  • “Working on matters related to SMS messaging and call interception aren’t enough to call the work the attorneys did substantially related to the patent litigation at hand, according to Network Apps. ‘Knowing that its ‘substantial relationship’ arguments fail from the start, AT&T falls back on its position that Cadwell, Clonts, and Reeder each spent many hours working for AT&T in years past,’ it said. ‘But without a ‘substantial relationship,’ this argument fails as well.'”
  • “When AT&T asked Judge Failla to consider disqualification, it pointed toward the volume of work done by the attorneys on behalf of the tech giant. All together, the attorneys spent more than a decade working for the company, according to AT&T, with Caldwell alone billing almost 13,000 hours, or ‘the equivalent of working full-time for six and a half years.'”

Activision Blizzard Employees Form Coalition To Oppose Auditing Law Firm” —

  • “Workers from multiple Activision Blizzard offices have joined together in a coalition and are formally protesting CEO Bobby Kotick’s appointed policies and procedures auditing firm. The group, The ABK Workers Alliance, sent a joint letter to Activision Blizzard executives to oppose the company’s hiring of WilmerHale, a law firm known for past anti-union action, to oversee an audit of Activision Blizzard’s workplace policies, practices, and procedures.”
    “The games publisher has been under fire since a lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard was made public in July. A California state agency alleges a history of abuse and discrimination against Activision Blizzard’s female employees, which Activision Blizzard initially called ‘distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past’ in a statement to Screen Rant. The internal and public backlash against the company’s initial response was later followed by a statement from Kotick, acknowledging that the Activision Blizzard response had been ‘tone deaf.’ Rather than only investigate the allegations internally, WilmerHale was hired as a third-party auditor of Activision Blizzard.”
  • “Responding to Activision Blizzard’s choice of WilmerHale, The ABK Workers Alliance sent a joint letter to Kotick and the rest of the publisher’s executive leadership, rejecting the firm for its previous history of ‘discouraging workers’ rights and collective action.'”
    • They wrote: “We reject the selection of WilmerHale for the following reasons:
      • WilmerHale’s pre-existing relationships with Activision Blizzard and its executives create an unacceptable conflict of interest.
      • Activision Blizzard has already been a client of WilmerHale, who you used to dispute the Diverse Candidate Search Policy proposed by the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund and UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust [1] earlier in 2021.
      • Frances Townsend is known to have relationships with multiple partners at WilmerHale, including former FBI Director Robert Mueller [2].”