The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit has delivered a setback to R&HW in its ongoing patent litigation against Research In Motion, the BlackBerry maker, in an opinion that hinders R&HW’s push for documents.
R&HW? Not a new firm. But that’s how the appeals court identified Bert Rein (a founding partner of Wiley Rein) and Hunton & Williams in a recent opinion about the consolidated effort to squeeze documents out of the Patent and Trademark Office and the Commerce Department.
Wiley Rein and Hunton & Williams have represented patentholder NTP in a dispute against RIM. (Recall that NTP charged RIM with patent infringement related to the BlackBerry, and RIM settled in 2006 for $612.5 million.) The lawyers for NTP submitted records requests under the Freedom of Information Act seeking background about the PTO decision to reexamine related NTP patents.
Rein signed a FOIA request in his own name, on Wiley Rein letterhead. Hunton & Williams submitted its FOIA request under the firm’s name. The lawyers were dissatisfied with the production of documents and alleged in two separate complaints that, among other things, the search for records was inadequate and the agencies wrongfully withheld or redacted requested information. The two complaints in the Eastern District of Virginia were consolidated.
Why the distinction between an individual lawyer on one complaint and a firm on the other?
Hunton & Williams partner John Range says he filed both complaints. In general, he says, using the firm's name is a safe way to go in the event an individual lawyer leaves in the middle of an action. But Range says he filed the other suit under Rein's name because Rein individually signed the original FOIA request.
Senior U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton in June 2007 granted summary judgment in favor of the PTO and the Commerce Department on the consolidated FOIA complaint. Last week, the 4th Circuit panel affirmed the decision in part, refusing to force the agencies to conduct a new search for documents.