Suit alleges 2 Littler lawyers misappropriated 'voluminous amount' of group's intellectual property
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Two Littler Mendelson lawyers are accused in a lawsuit of misappropriating a “voluminous amount” of a nonprofit’s password-protected intellectual property.
The Nov. 13 lawsuit, filed by the Center for Workplace Compliance, says the lawyers misappropriated more than 2,100 pages of content over a period of 17 months.
The material includes memoranda, templates, checklists, guides and other resources produced exclusively for the group’s members. Law firms cannot be members of the center, which advises employers on workplace law.
The suit alleges that Littler shareholder Lance Gibbons, formerly an assistant general counsel at the Center for Workplace Compliance, gained access to the materials by telling a Littler client that he needed the client’s password to find one particular document. When the client’s passwords changed several times in the future, Gibbons allegedly made additional misrepresentations to get the passwords.
Gibbons then used a range of the illegally downloaded materials to provide clients with legal services—and Littler billed them for the work, the suit alleges.
Gibbons had previously sought to obtain documents from the center’s personnel, but they did not agree to his request, the suit says.
Another lawyer, Littler principal Chris Gokturk, is accused of using some of the materials in presentations to current and prospective clients. Gokturk was formerly a senior adviser for compliance solutions at the center.
The copyright notice on the purloined materials was removed in presentations and changed to a Littler copyright notice, the suit says.
The suit alleges copyright infringement, fraud, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and removal of copyright management information.
A law firm spokeswoman gave a statement to the publications covering the lawsuit.
“Littler values and respects intellectual property rights, and we expect our attorneys to do the same,” the statement said. “The firm had no knowledge at the time of the alleged actions. As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we initiated an investigation and took immediate action based on our findings. As this is an ongoing litigation matter, we cannot provide any further comment.”
Law.com searched Littler’s website and found that Gokturk is still listed as a principal at the firm, but Gibbons is no longer listed as a shareholder.