updated 08:35 am EDT, Tue July 12, 2011
Apple loses key attorney as Samsung files motion
Apple may have faced two blows in its legal efforts on Tuesday. A leak has revealed that the company's chief counsel on patent issues, Richard Lutton Jr., is leaving. A tip to Reuters didn't explain why but confirmed that HP's previous deputy general counsel BJ Watrous had already been hired as a replacement.
Lutton didn't comment but was expected to leave this month.
The departure came at a less than ideal time for Apple as Samsung filed a motion hoping to have some of Apple's current external lawyers dismissed. The complaint found by Florian Mueller alleged that Apple's representative firm Bridges & Mavrakakis has a conflict of interest after a minimum of five lawyers were known to have represented Samsung when working with Kirkland & Ellis. The access, as recent as this year, provided a risk that Apple had access to inside Samsung information, according to the motion.
Among the issues were that Apple might bring up the same idea of demanding "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" conditions for royalties. Apple could theoretically use Samsung's own strategy against it.
Two other law firms working with Apple, Morrison & Foerster and Wilmer Hale, should also provide sworn affidavits that they didn't receive sensitive Samsung information, the company said.
Apple has denied any conflict. An Ericsson lawsuit against Samsung wasn't a factor because of the "rapid pace of change in the relevant industry," it said. Bridges & Mavrakakis had no connection with a key patent at the heart of Samsung's conflict accusations. The other two firms have denied receiving any special information but also wouldn't reveal their full working relationship directly to Samsung out of attorney privilege.
Samsung is hoping for a hearing on the subject on or near August 18.
The move may be another delay tactic for Samsung. It's currently hoping to push back a hearing on a preliminary product ban that, if successful for Apple, could see some of Samsung's most important Android phones pulled off of the US market. Samsung had tried buying time earlier against an Apple discovery request by asking to see unannounced Apple devices but was shot down sooner than it had anticipated.
Both companies remain partners for supplies but have been engaged in an escalating standoff, hoping to force the other side to settle. Apple most recently filed a countering ITC patent dispute to head off one filed by Samsung just days before.