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Federal judge OKs injunction against AG who nixed law firm’s ‘patent troll’ work

Posted Oct 2, 2013 11:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The attorney general of Nebraska violated a Florida-based technology company's legal rights by issuing a cease-and-desist order that precluded a Texas law firm accused of patent trolling from continuing to represent Activision TV in intellectual property cases, a federal judge in Omaha has ruled.

In a Monday decision (PDF), U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Bataillon called AG Jon Bruning's issuance of a cease-and-desist order against Farley Daniels "akin to a prior restraint" and said it violated the client's free-speech rights.

The judge also said Bruning's attempt to intervene in the attorney-client relationship between the law firm and Activision was likely invalid under federal patent law, which preempts state law, reports the Lincoln Journal Star.

“The court is deeply concerned about the ability of the Attorney General to issue cease and desist orders, prior to the conclusion of the investigation, prior to any negative findings, prior to any hearings, and prior to permitting submission of documents and evidence by the Farney Daniels law firm,” the judge wrote. "On the contrary, the Attorney General sent a request for information to Farney Daniels the same day it sent the cease and desist order, and gave Farney Daniels until August 18, 2013, to respond. Farney Daniels responded, and no further actions have been taken. The inability of Farney Daniels to submit such letters to businesses in Nebraska clearly infringes on the First Amendment rights of Activision to be represented by the counsel of their choice."

Bruning said he was not going to be deterred from continuing to investigate the law firm.

“Nothing in the judge’s order stops our ongoing investigation into patent trolls and law firms that represent them, specifically Farney Daniels,” the AG said in a written statement he provided to the newspaper on Tuesday. “Yesterday’s procedural order addressed a relationship between Farney Daniels and their client Activision. This is a limited issue that has no bearing on our patent troll investigation going forward. We will continue to work with other states to investigate the baseless harassment perpetrated by patent trolls.”

An Activision TV press release and a Patent Lawyer Blog post provide further details.

Hat tip: Associated Press

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Nebraska AG goes after alleged patent trolls"

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