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Oxford Systems v. CellPro

45 F. Supp. 2d 1055 (1999)

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Oxford Systems v. CellPro

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

45 F. Supp. 2d 1055 (1999)

Facts

CellPro, Inc. (CellPro) (defendant) filed an action in Washington seeking a ruling that it was not infringing on patents that were, in part, controlled by Becton Dickinson (Becton). A partner at the law firm of Perkins Coie (Perkins) represented Becton as local counsel in Washington and provided additional support when the litigation was transferred to another jurisdiction. The partner then left Perkins. A year later, Becton won the lawsuit and was awarded $8.7 million in fees and costs because CellPro had pursued the lawsuit based on disingenuous patent opinions from its law firm, Lyon & Lyon, LLP. (Lyon) (defendant). Becton went after Lyon to recover the fee award. Around the same time, Perkins began representing Lyon against securities-fraud claims by CellPro’s shareholders (plaintiffs). Like Becton’s fee claim, the shareholders’ claims were based on Lyon having provided false and misleading opinions about Becton’s patents. Although Perkins had not actively represented Becton for several months, Becton moved to disqualify Perkins from representing Lyon in the securities-fraud action. Becton claimed that it had an active attorney-client relationship with Perkins because Becton had used Perkins exclusively for all its Washington legal work for eight years and because Perkins’s intermittent involvement in the patent-infringement case showed that it was on call for Becton until that case was completely done. Perkins responded that the partner in charge of the firm’s work on Becton’s patent-infringement case had left the firm. Perkins also submitted declarations from two attorneys who had worked on Becton’s case stating that they had not learned any confidential information about Becton. However, Perkins did not account for other attorneys who had worked on the case.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Zilly, J.)

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