Apple is fighting to keep four of its patent lawyers out of a deposition chair in the company's ongoing legal fight with competitor Nokia over cell phone technology patents.
Nokia wants four of Apple's attorneys from Washington's Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox to testify about meetings they had with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office about several patents in question. Apple is arguing that information protected by attorney-client privilege would come out in such a deposition, and also that Nokia already has several other ways of learning what happened in those meetings.
Apple filed a motion to quash the subpoena (PDF) in May in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Nokia filed its response (PDF)on Friday, claiming that the written record on the meetings are incomplete, and that it wants to interview the patent lawyers to clarify information already on the public record.
The four Sterne Kessler attorneys are Robert Sterne, Glenn Perry, Rich Coller and Salvador Bezos. They are being represented by fellow Sterne Kessler attorney Byron Pickard, who declined to comment on their behalf.
Nokia is being represented by Patrick Flinn of Alston & Bird in Atlanta. Flinn declined to comment on the case. Nokia and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment this morning.
The underlying case is playing out in U.S District Court for the District of Delaware. Nokia sued Apple (PDF) in October 2009 for alleged infringement of 10 patents related to smartphone technology and Apple filed counterclaims (PDF) alleging similar violations of patents held by Apple.
The case is one of several similar patent disputes playing out among the world’s top cell phone manufacturers. A 2010 survey of patent litigation by the National Law Journal’s sister publication Corporate Counsel dubbed them the “smartphone wars.”
Nokia’s subpoena has to do with meetings the four Sterne Kessler attorneys had with patent officials over the reexamination of patents at issue in Apple’s counterclaims. The Sterne Kessler lawyers claim Nokia can rely on written summaries of those meetings and also that the company has the option of calling non-attorneys who were part of those meetings, such as patent office officials, to testify.
Nokia says the interview summaries are incomplete. Responding to the Sterne Kessler attorneys’ argument that a deposition would risk the release of privileged information, Nokia claims it would limit questions to fact-based issues regarding meetings that are a matter of public record.
“The only mechanism to ensure that Nokia can obtain the best description of what was said is to depose all the individuals present,” the company argued in its brief.
The case is before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins.