Houston intellectual property and trial firm Matthews, Lawson, McCutcheon & Joseph has sued former lawyer Erik Osterrieder, alleging the patent attorney “stole and secreted off-site in his personal law firm” confidential client information, and in one instance took a client’s information and then set that client up to be represented by his personal firm.
Matthews Lawson alleged in a petition filed March 23 in the 164th District Court in Harris County, Texas, that Osterrieder operated his own firm, Osterrieder LLC, from his office at Matthews Lawson and other locations while employed full time at Matthews Lawson. The firm, which is also called MLMJ, alleged that Osterrieder denied on at least two occasions in 2016 that he was operating his own firm while at Matthews Lawson.
“However, MLMJ discovered in February 2017 that Osterrieder was sending, transferring and disclosing the highly confidential and trade secret information of MLMJ to his law firm, Osterrieder LLC, in breach of his fiduciary duty and written agreement with MLMJ,” the firm alleged in the petition.
Osterrieder had worked at Matthews Lawson since 2012. He was terminated on Feb. 20 of this year.
Osterrieder, now at Rao DeBoer Osterrieder in Houston, did not immediately return a telephone message left at his new firm or respond to an email. The suit names Osterrieder and Osterrieder LLC as defendants.
Matthews Lawson charged the defendants with breach of fiduciary duty, statutory misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, common-law fraud, tortious interference, unfair competition, conversion and money had and received. The firm is also seeking an accounting of any money earned by Osterrieder or entities controlled by him that “in equity and good conscience” belong to the firm, and, due to the defendants’ breaches of fiduciary duty, forfeiture of all income and fee income Osterrieder earned while conducting his own private law practice while employed at Matthews Lawson.
The firm seeks a temporary restraining order, and later a temporary and permanent injunction, to stop Osterrieder or anyone associated with him from obtaining, downloading, using, disclosing or destroying any of the plaintiff’s confidential, proprietary business information and trade secrets.
Houston lawyer Ken Breitbeil, a shareholder in McFall, Breitbeil & Eidman who represents Matthews Lawson, said 189th District Judge Bill Burke of Harris County granted a temporary restraining order on Friday. He said his client is still determining how many client files Osterrieder may have opened for his personal firm while working at Matthews Lawson.
“It’s an example of lawyers behaving badly,” Breitbeil said.
According to the petition, Matthews Lawson hired Osterrieder on May 21, 2012, to prosecute patent and trademark applications at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. However, the firm alleged in the petition, as a result of his contact with firm clients and unbeknownst to the firm until very recently, Osterrieder began to “misappropriate personal and confidential information of MLMJ clients to use later in his own private practice.”
The firm alleged that while employed full-time at Matthews Lawson, Osterrieder reestablished or continued to operate his private firm, Osterrieder LLC, “and put a plan in place to steal clients from MLMJ.” The firm also alleged that Osterrieder began to keep the firm’s confidential information at his personal law firm and used it to identify clients, establish pricing and bidding on work then being performed by Matthews Lawson, and to contact Matthews Lawson clients about work relating to their IP. In addtion, the firm alleged that Osterrieder used the trade secret and confidential information to unfairly compete with Matthews Lawson.
In one instance, Osterrieder, as a Matthews Lawson attorney, met with a client, took his personal and confidential information, and then set the client up as a client of Osterrieder LLC, Matthews Lawson alleged in the petition. Osterrieder then used a firm credit card issued to founding member Guy Matthews “for benefitting his co-defendant law firm,” Matthews Lawson alleged.
In another instance, the firm alleged Osterrieder repeatedly contacted a Matthews Lawson client to “try to insist” that it become a client of his private firm, but the client had to demand that Osterrieder stop calling and emailing him.
Matthews Lawson alleged that when Osterrieder took a job with the firm, he agreed not to operate his own firm, and assured the firm on various occasions that he was not. But Matthews Lawson alleged that Osterrieder filed trademark applications for clients of Osterrieder LLC while employed at Matthews Lawson.
The firm seeks a temporary restraining order, claiming there is an immediate need to protect and preserve its confidential and proprietary business information and confidential client information.
“Plaintiff has only recently discovered the magnitude of defendants’ bad conduct in terms of their improper interference with plaintiff’s client relationships by their use of confidential and proprietary information belonging to plaintiff, which is continuing,” the firm wrote in the petition.
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