Google Inc. (GOOG) is sparring with a law firm it’s been using since 2008 after discovering lawyers there began representing a patent-licensing business that sued the company’s Android partners last month.
Google claims Pepper Hamilton LLP never provided notice that the law firm was hired by Digitude Innovations LLC, which filed patent-infringement complaints against handset makers, including Android partners HTC Corp. (2498) and Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) Pepper Hamilton should be disqualified from the case, Google said in a Jan. 27 request to the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, where one of the complaints was filed.
“In short, Pepper Hamilton is accusing its own client of infringement,” Mountain View, California-based Google said in the filing. “Pepper Hamilton should not be allowed to continue alleging infringement against the products and interests of its current client.”
Google, which has used Pepper Hamilton to help it apply for patents related to its Android mobile operating system, accused the law firm of disloyalty and said confidential information it shared creates conflicts of interest in the Digitude case. With so much patent litigation among technology companies there is bound to be some overlap among lawyers, said Scott Daniels, a partner with Westerman Hattori Daniels in Washington.
“Conflicts are hard on law firms,” Daniels said in an interview. “You don’t want to anger your clients.”
Pepper Hamilton lawyers who are representing Alexandria, Virginia-based Digitude didn’t return telephone messages seeking comment about Google’s complaint. A spokesman for the law firm in Philadelphia had no immediate comment. The firm’s website says it has about 500 lawyers.
Firing a Client
Pepper Hamilton represents Google in efforts to get more than 50 patents, including 12 directed at Android, according to the filing.
Google said it unsuccessfully sought to resolve the issue, and Pepper Hamilton tried to “fire” Google as a client, the company said in the filing without elaborating. Digitude is opposing the request to have Pepper Hamilton disqualified from the ITC case, Google said.
The case is In the Matter of Certain Portable Communication Devices, 337-827, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
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