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An inappropriate question by a Mountain View, Calif., patent lawyer during jury selection has earned him a potential 48-hour jail sentence for contempt of court. John van Loben Sels, a partner at Wang, Hartmann, Gibbs & Cauley, tried to prejudice the jury, the judge ruled, in a patent case between client Beyond Innovation Technology Co. (BiTEK) and O2 Micro.

Van Loben Sels asked potential jurors on July 6 if they had “a problem with a company that puts its headquarters offshore on a Caribbean island in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes.” Eastern District of Texas Judge Charles Everingham IV, who held van Loben Sels in contempt that day, had prohibited BiTEK’s lawyers from saying anything about O2 Micro’s tax haven home in the Cayman Islands, as it had nothing to do with the patent case.

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