Lights, Camera, Law

Sally Helppie wears multiple professional hats: entertainment lawyer, adjunct law professor and movie producer. The fourth movie Helppie produced, indie-action thriller "Infiltrators," premiers in Dallas on July 18. Helppie, of counsel at Dallas' Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein and the president of Dallas-based Advocate Pictures not only created a new film but also gained a new client in the process. Helppie says she hatched the idea for "Infiltrators" when an existing client, a company that owned a downtown Dallas building, asked if she wanted to use footage of its scheduled demolition for a potential movie. Around the same time, the demolition company told her about another demolition to be scheduled. Helppie used the shots of both demolitions for "Infiltrators," which was directed by Michael Stokes. That demolition company subsequently became a client for Helppie, after she helped it develop a deal to appear on a reality TV show currently in production about, you guessed it, demolitions. Meanwhile, some of Helppie's colleagues got bit parts in the movie, including shareholder Chuck Serafino and of counsel Mike Farris. Also taking a turn on the silver screen was Paul Coggins, Helppie's former mentor, a Locke Lord partner and head of his firm's white-collar criminal-defense unit, a fiction writer and a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Helppie says all three lawyers played their roles pro bono or simply for "the glory." She plans to give them tickets to the premier.

Patent Law Showdown

It'll be hard to match the extraordinary set of decisions the U.S. Supreme Court handed down in the last week of June — rulings that impacted marriage, voting and civil rights and directed the nation's attention to the judicial goings-on in Washington D.C. But for patent lawyers and their clients, the real action will take place two miles away from the high court at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Lawyers will argue Lighting Ballast Control v. Universal Lighting Technologies before the en banc Federal Circuit on Sept 13. Lighting Ballast represents a serious challenge to Cybor Corp v. FAS Technologies Inc., a seminal 15-year-old decision from the Federal Circuit. Under Cybor the Federal Circuit engages in de novo review of a trial court's crucial claims-construction decisions — determinations about the meanings of key words in a patent that are crucial in any patent-infringement ligiation. And many litigants and parties have become frustrated when the court of appeals so easily can undo litigants' hard work in the trial court. So far, 13 amicus briefs in Lighting Ballast have been sent to the Federal Circuit from interested parties, ranging from the American Bar Association to Microsoft Corp. And the briefs are continuing to roll in, as there's a July 7 deadline for amici to weigh in on the case, says David Skeels, a partner in Fort Worth's Friedman Suder & Cooke, who represents Lighting Ballast. "The issue is so fundamental and is of such interest to all patent practitioners and to players in the industry," Skeels says. Steven Routh, a partner in Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe who represents Universal Lighting Technologies, did not immediately return a call for comment.