Irell & Manella’s Morgan Chu (Tom Kurtz / The Recorder)
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has barred IP litigator Morgan Chu and others at Irell & Manella from going up against former client Radware in a Northern District of California patent case.
In a seven-page order issued Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte granted Radware’s motion to disqualify Irell from representing A10 Networks, a rival in the networking industry. Radware argued that the law firm had confidential information about its products, financing and decision making after representing the company in two matters.
Irell claimed it did not have a conflict because its work for Radware involved different patents. But Whyte found that the firm’s obligations to its current and former client were at odds.
“Irell’s duty of loyalty to A10 in this representation would conflict with its duty of confidentiality to Radware from its prior representation,” Whyte wrote.
Kerr & Wagstaffe filed the motion to disqualify Irell on behalf of Radware. McDermott, Will & Emery partner Fabio Marino, who represents the Israeli company in the underlying litigation, said his client is relieved by the judge’s order.
“It was an important issue to the client,” he said. “Now, they don’t have to go face-to-face with their former counsel.”
Chu, who also represented A10 in its patent suit with Brocade Communication Systems, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. San Jose-based A10 is also represented by Latham & Watkins in the matter.
Radware sued F5 Networks and A10 for stepping on two patents last July in the Northern District. Irell previously represented Radware in a dispute with F5. As Irell lawyers went up against Radware, they tried to depose executives they had once counseled about technology at issue in the case, according to the motion for disqualification.
Radware initially moved to disqualify Irell in camera, but Whyte ordered the company to file the documents publicly after the firm complained about the covert offensive.
Whyte did not find that Irell had acquired confidential Radware information but concluded that the firm’s past work for Radware was too similar to its new work for A10.
“None of this is to say that Irell has acted unethically or would intend to do so in the representation of A10,” he wrote. “In the end, the court takes a different, broader view than Irell on what constitutes a ‘substantial relationship’ and finds that the firm must be disqualified.”
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