Legal Ethics

Dueling Motions Denied

A federal judge has denied dueling motions in a patent infringement case that seek to disqualify the other side’s lawyers.

Senior U.S. District Judge William Schwarzer of San Francisco ruled in a suit that claims RealNetworks infringed patents for organizing and playing video and audio files, the Recorder reports.

Because motions to disqualify can be tactically motivated and disrupt the litigation process, they are generally disfavored, Schwarzer said yesterday.

The plaintiff, Friskit, is represented by Foley & Lardner, and the defendant is represented by Howrey.

Friskit had said Howrey should be disqualified because Friskit had preliminary discussions with the firm about representation in the case. Friskit’s motion also said one of Howrey’s lawyers later moved to RealNetworks where he became deputy general counsel, further compromising the law firm.

But Schwarzer said those early discussions did not make Friskit a Howrey client, and Howrey could screen lawyers in those talks from the case.

RealNetworks argued that Foley & Lardner should be disqualified because RealNetworks’ CEO had hired the firm in a different matter, and the firm owed the CEO a duty of loyalty. Schwarzer said any duty of loyalty was owed to Friskit, since it hired the law firm first.

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