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WITH LAWYER IN HAND, 19-YEAR-OLD READY TO FIGHT APPLE When Apple Computer Inc. sued Harvard University freshman Nicholas Ciarelli this month for spilling the beans about its nascent products on the Internet, news outlets across the country noted that Ciarelli was hunting for a lawyer. And last week he found one, more than 3,000 miles away. Terry Gross of San Francisco, no stranger to fights over rights in cyberspace, will lock horns over trade secrets and free speech with San Francisco lawyers from O’Melveny & Myers, which has a longstanding relationship with Apple. The Cupertino-based computer giant sued Ciarelli in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Jan. 4, accusing him of misappropriating and distributing trade secrets on Thinksecret.com. The site labels itself “the source for Macintosh inside information and news scoops” and counts among its scoops a story on a “digital music player” posted a week before Apple went public with its enormously popular iPod. The 19-year-old Ciarelli — who writes under the nom de plume of “Nick dePlume” — told The Associated Press he was searching for free or low-cost legal help. But that’s not what turned Gross on to the case. Though Gross first heard about Apple’s suit when a New York Times reporter called him for comment, it wasn’t until he got a call from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that he got directly involved. Gross and EFF go way back, to the early 1990s and the infancy of the World Wide Web. He was a partner at Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman in New York when he became the first outside general counsel for the San Francisco-based group, which takes up civil rights cases related to new technology. Gross is now a partner in San Francisco’s Gross & Belsky, whose specialties include media law, intellectual property, consumer fraud, antitrust class actions and public international law. But his firm maintains ties with EFF. Facing Apple pro bono wasn’t an easy decision for Gross’ five-lawyer firm, but other members of the Internet community made it easier when they volunteered to pitch in, Gross said. Apple, noting that Ciarelli solicits anonymous tips on his Web site, asserts that the student broke the law by inducing employees and contractors to violate confidentiality agreements with the company. It wants an injunction and unspecified damages, and also names the alleged secret-leakers as John Doe defendants. Ciarelli maintains that his site, which he started when he was 13, hasn’t used any improper techniques to get its news. “This is important for all reporters because our society doesn’t want journalists to censor themselves because of fear they may be sued when they publish information of public interest,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Recorder. Gross plans to argue that a publisher can’t be held liable for putting out legally obtained information. He aims to get the suit thrown out under a California law that says lawsuits against those exercising their free speech or other protected rights must be dismissed unless the plaintiff demonstrates that he’s likely to win on the merits. — Pam Smith CALLING CARD CARE When Greenberg Traurig partner David Frazee ran out of business cards recently, he started handing out the one he generally uses on trips to China. The dual-language card — with English writing on one side and Chinese characters on the other — had an unexpected consequence. “Inadvertently, it allowed for kick-starting conversations about expanding business globally,” Frazee said. Dual-language cards have long been used by attorneys doing business abroad — although not all lawyers hand out such cards domestically. But in Asia, the nuances of what to print on the cards seem almost as complicated to foreigners as the rules of how to set up an outpost. There are a host of choices to be made — including whether to use simplified characters as is common in mainland China or the traditional text preferred in Hong Kong and Taiwan. “You are making a statement,” said Frazee. “There is a whole culture surrounding cards.” Other dilemmas include whether to present text from right to left or top to bottom — the latter a style another Greenberg Traurig lawyer reportedly favors because it is used by Taiwanese government officials. Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe came up with a folded four-panel card with text in English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese. Color also makes a difference. Heller’s use of red turned out to be auspicious, as that color connotes wealth in China. But the firm had to consider that white can symbolize death — although in the end it didn’t alter its use in marketing materials. Pillsbury Winthrop associate Albert Lee says academic degrees carry more weight in China than in the U.S., prompting him to include his Ph.D. title on his business card. Firms must also decide whether to adopt a Chinese name or transliterate their English name. The obvious risk for those who are not entirely bilingual is making an embarrassing mistake. “Mandarin has four tones, but Cantonese has 16,” says James Topinka, a partner with Coudert Brothers, which has had a Beijing office for 25 years. “If you chose the wrong sound, you may be calling yourself a jackass.” — Marie-Anne Hogarth PROP 64, IN REVERSE There are Web logs about divorce law, corporate law, ERISA and just about every court in the country. There’s even the Blawg, an online directory to law blogs. So until Nov. 3, Kimberly Kralowec’s unfair competition law blog was just one small particle in the online legal miasma. But when Proposition 64 — which limits the reach of Business & Professional Code � 17200 — passed on Election Day, Kralowec’s blog, www.17200blog.com, leaped into the spotlight. The blog and Kralowec, of counsel at The Furth Firm, have quickly become a leading resource in answering Prop 64′s $64,000 question: whether the statute is retroactive. Kralowec started the site in the fall of 2003, shortly after learning about blogs. “I thought the UCL was a perfect subject because there was a lot of interesting stuff coming down even before Prop 64,” she said. Since Prop 64 passed, plaintiff and defense lawyers have been using the blog as a resource to monitor and post new trial court decisions and appellate briefs on the retroactivity question. “I look at the blog as I would any other treatise. If you’re writing a treatise, you don’t just look at the cases that are good for your side,” said Kralowec, a plaintiff lawyer. “I’m glad that people are looking at it as a definitive resource.” With attorneys still waiting for an appellate ruling to settle the retroactivity question, trial court rulings have been the only way to get a sense of whether suits filed before Election Day will be allowed to progress. So far, the defense bar has the edge: The blog lists nine rulings saying Prop 64 is not retroactive and 13 saying it is. And there is a rough north-south split, with most of the pro-retroactivity decisions coming from Southern California and most of the anti-retroactivity coming from the north. “Most of the judges who have found that Prop 64 applies retroactively are in Los Angeles County, where, of course, the Trevor Law Group debacle occurred,” Kralowec said, referring to the highly publicized 2003 state investigation where three Beverly Hills lawyers gave up their licenses after allegedly shaking down small businesses with threats of 17200 suits. While the trial rulings may influence the thinking of judges and lawyers, Kralowec said, everyone is holding their breath for the first appellate ruling. The Fourth District Court of Appeal is likely to make it in Consumer Advocates v. Daimlerchrysler, G029811. Like the other plaintiff attorneys, Kralowec hopes the appeal court won’t follow the lead of the Southern California trial judges. “It doesn’t sound like trial court decisions are going to have a huge effect on what the appeal court does,” she said. But, she added, there’s a rumor among the 17200 blog community that a Dec. 29 anti-retroactivity ruling by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer has been read and cited by several judges. — Justin Scheck SURREAL TV San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris last week debated criminal justice with Gimli the dwarf and Doug McIntyre, the producer of TV’s now-defunct “Mike Hammer, P.I.” Needless to say, Harris held her own against Gimli. (Technically, he was John Rhys-Davies, the full-size actor who plays Gimli in “The Lord of the Rings” movies.) Any way you cut it, Harris’ appearance on CNBC’s “Dennis Miller” show was surreal. Harris made some of her usual points during her appearance, which aired Thursday. She talked about the need to spend more money on the social causes of street crime instead of building prisons. She also complained that Californians pay more in federal taxes than they get back. Host Miller also asked her about convicted murderer Donald Beardslee, who, in Miller’s words, was “croaked” by the state at San Quentin early Wednesday. “My perspective is simple: If you’re going to talk about where we’re going to spend money on criminal justice, let’s not spend millions and millions of money to house octogenarians on death row,” Harris said. Harris got the invite from Miller’s staff after a glowing profile of her appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine in October, said Harris’ spokeswoman, Debbie Mesloh. McIntyre, the TV producer, who is also a radio talk show personality, disagreed with Harris’ liberal San Francisco sensibilities and railed about local governments spending money on “stupid” projects like cultural centers. At that point, Miller screamed, “You’re damn right!” and the segment ended. — Jeff Chorney

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