Samsung: Apple's lawyers should be tossed

Legal dealings between Apple and Samsung just keep getting messier. The latest is Samsung requesting that some of Apple's attorneys be removed from case for having worked for Samsung on a previous matter.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
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The legal fracas between gadget makers Apple and Samsung has reached a new level, with Samsung now vying to get some of Apple's legal team members kicked off the case.

FOSS Patents picked up on a 20-page motion filed by Samsung with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California yesterday, asking to have some of Apple's lawyers from law firm Bridges & Mavrakakis taken off the case. In the filing, Samsung alleges that these lawyers have a conflict of interest under the California Rule of Professional Conduct for having previously worked on Samsung's behalf in other legal matters.

"At least five of the ten attorneys at the firm of Bridges & Mavrakakis represented Samsung on patent litigation matters that are substantially related to the case at hand," the filing reads. "Collectively, these attorneys spent almost 9,000 hours, including time spent earlier this year, performing work on patent litigation matters for Samsung."

The case in question was from when Samsung was up against Ericsson Inc. and Sony-Ericsson over patent infringement claims back in 2006. Five of Bridges & Mavrakakis lawyers now on Apple's external legal team were then defending Samsung as part of law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Samsung's filing goes as far as to break down the time each of the attorneys billed on that case, as well as detailing their roles.

Samsung goes on to argue that these lawyers have provided immense research on the company's own patents, along with outside help patent experts--including some on Samsung's own in-house teams, all in order to craft offensive and defensive measures against that intellectual property. That information could then be used against Samsung in Apple's case, the filing says:

It is inevitable that Samsung's confidential information--including not only the legal strategies implemented by Samsung in a prior litigation, but also other accumulated insights such as the decision-making tendencies and pressure points of Samsung's internal legal team--will be used to Advance Apple's interest against Samsung in this litigation.

Samsung's filing notes that the company brought up this alleged conflict of interest to the law firm "on multiple occasions" but that nothing came out of it. "Bridges & Mavrakakis responded that any prior representations by its lawyers of Samsung were not related to the current litigation," the company wrote in the filing. The company goes on to say that it even attempted to get the lawyers, as well as Apple to sign an affidavit that it hadn't gotten any confidential information about Samsung from the law firm.

Apple filed its lawsuit against Samsung in the U.S. back in April, alleging that the consumer electronics giant had violated its intellectual property in the design of its mobile devices. The suit takes aim specifically at the Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets, as well as other Samsung smartphones, for "copying" Apple's user interface and design features. In it, Apple claims Samsung is infringing on its patents and is practicing unfair competition.

Samsung returned the favor a week later, countersuing Apple, alleging that the iPhone and iPad maker was infringing on several of its patents.

Since then there have been complaints filedwith the U.S. International Trade Commission, by both companies requesting that the organization block one another's imports of smartphones and tablets into the U.S. Both parties have also asked to see unreleased and unannounced versions of products from one another.

The legal battle continues to be of special interest to industry onlookers and consumers alike given the relationship between the two companies. Samsung is the supplier of components in a handful of Apple devices, including part of Apple's A4 and A5 processors, which can be found in the company's iOS devices as well on the Apple TV product. Apple also invested $100 million in Samsung back in 1999 to help boost the company's production of flat-panel displays.