The lawyers may bill clients as much as $1,000 an hour. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal is counting pennies.
Grewal on Wednesday ordered Samsung Electronics Co. to pay $21,554.14 to Apple Inc. and Apple to pay $160,069.41 to Samsung as sanctions for separate discovery violations in their epic patent suit, Apple v. Samsung, 11-1846.
To arrive at his sums, the San Jose magistrate slashed the hourly rates sought by Samsung’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which exceeded the rates requested by Apple’s lawyers at Morrison & Foerster.
It was clear from his 21-page order that Grewal, a former IP litigator, also had a sharp eye on sloppy billing practices.
“Unfortunately, despite two opportunities to submit detailed and accurate supporting invoices, the parties have left the court to parse through bare descriptions of their attorneys’ activities,” Grewal scolded.
The magistrate, appointed in 2010, specifically took issue with block billing that failed to detail how attorneys spent the hours they worked and with apparent overstaffing.
In August a federal jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion finding Samsung’s smartphones and tablets infringed on Apple’s patents.
Samsung’s demand for sanctions resulted from Apple’s failure much earlier in the case to turn over certain deposition testimony. Samsung had sought $256,200 from Apple in connection with preparation of three motions to compel.
Grewal noted that one Quinn Emanuel associate, Curran Walker, billed 93.5 hours for “substantial assistance with all aspects of the preparation” of pleadings for Samsung.
“How were those hours divided among the various tasks?” Grewal wrote. “Is it reasonable that Walker spent nearly two work weeks on a motion for sanctions when two partners, three other associates and innumerable contract attorneys were also staffed on the motion? The court can only guess at the answers to those questions because Samsung offers only the barest description of Walker’s activities.”
Grewal also scrutinized 50 hours of work billed at $1,035 an hour by London-based Quinn Emanuel partner Marc Becker.
“The court tends to find it unreasonable that a partner with almost 25 years of experience needed 50 hours to draft a 14-page motion and to review a 15-page reply, especially when five associates also billed 85.8 hours for the same motion,” Grewal wrote.
Becker’s hourly fee settled at $800, after Grewal deflated his firm’s rates based on an annual survey from the American Intellectual Property Law Association. The highest hourly rate from a Quinn Emanuel associate was reduced from $620 to $470.
Samsung’s requests did not reference the billing rate for Quinn Emanuel star litigator Charles Verhoeven, who led Samsung’s trial team.
Grewal was somewhat kinder to Apple’s request for $29,167 in attorney fees, stemming from Samsung’s foot-dragging in the production of documents during the preliminary injunction phase of the case.
“Apple at least breaks down the hours by task,” he wrote.
However, Grewal concluded Apple had also requested fees beyond those it was entitled to and applied a “20 percent haircut.”
Grewal also denied attorney fees for Apple’s preparation of motions to seal, which has been a flash point between the court and companies involved in the patent suit. “The court refuses to incentivize more sealing actions,” he wrote.