Risk Update

Law Firm Risk News — Confidentiality, China & Information Access Controls, IP Conflict Called in Copyright Matter

Alston & Bird Kicked Off California Copyright Case Over Conflict” —

  • “Alston & Bird LLP has been sidelined in a copyright spat between the owner of the My Perfect Resume website, Bold Limited, and rival site operator Rocket Resume Inc.”
  • “Lawyers in the firm’s intellectual property practice group had been representing Rocket, which is defending against Bold’s claims it copied from the My Perform Resume site in a suit in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. But that representation ended as Judge Beth Labson Freeman disqualified the firm due to its prior representation of Bold in IP matters over a four-year period from 2013 to 2017.”
  • “Five current Alston & Bird partners ‘had a sufficiently direct relationship with Bold such that the Court may presume that these attorneys obtained confidential information,’ Freeman wrote in an order docketed Tuesday granting Bold’s motion to disqualify the firm.”
  • “Freeman also found that one of the prior Bold matters in which Alston & Bird represented the company was sufficiently similar to the current copyright case to require disqualification.”
  • “Rocket had argued the current litigation was about a Bold database registered with the US Copyright Office in late 2020, more than five years after Alston & Bird lawyers ceased doing work for Bold. The company urged Freeman not to bar two Alston & Bird attorneys, Chaka Patterson and Dana Zottola, who hadn’t been staffed on any of the older Bold matters.”
  • “Zottola hasn’t made an appearance in the case but Rocket said she’s worked as an adviser to the company. She’s also married to Stephen Zimmerman, Rocket’s founder and CEO and a co-defendant in the case, according to the court’s order.”
  • “‘The overlap of factual and legal issues between the prior and current representations indicates that information about Bold’s copyright registration and enforcement practices and its IP portfolio are material to the evaluation, prosecution, settlement, or accomplishment in this case,’ Freeman wrote.”

Latham & Watkins cuts off its Hong Kong lawyers from international databases” —

  • “US law firm Latham & Watkins is cutting off automatic access to its international databases for its Hong Kong-based lawyers, in a sign of how Beijing’s closer control of the territory is forcing global firms to rethink the way they operate.”
  • “The world’s second-highest-grossing law firm has told staff that while Hong Kong will have access by default to China documents, from this month they will not be able to see other content in its international databases unless specifically given permission, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.”
  • “The move underscores the growing difficulties for global companies operating in a city that made its name as an international financial hub. It comes after Beijing introduced new anti-espionage and data laws restricting information flows out of the country.”
  • “Latham & Watkins is now ‘treating Hong Kong as the same as mainland China,’ one of the people said, as US firms grow wary over Beijing’s closer control of the territory. The law firm declined to comment.”
  • “It is already considered best practice to wall off confidential client data, restricting access only to those who need to see it. However, the change will mean staff in Hong Kong no longer have default access even to non-private files from outside China.”
  • “Latham & Watkins is also separating its Hong Kong office database from the rest of Asia — its offices in Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo — to create a new ‘Greater China’ database shared with the Beijing office, the people said.”
  • “‘There’s definitely a concern over the new [Hong Kong security law] . . . that essentially puts Hong Kong data laws on par with China’s,’ the first person added.”
  • “‘What it means is if you have . . . raids in Hong Kong, law enforcement [can only] access Hong Kong and China databases,’ the second person said.”
  • “Beijing’s political crackdown on Hong Kong, with a sweeping national security law imposed on the city in 2020, has silenced dissent, curbed civil freedoms and dented the once freewheeling territory’s appeal for foreign investors and businesses.”