San Francisco, CA (March 28, 2012) - Fenwick & West is pleased to announce that the Firm, in partnership with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has been awarded US Copyright Case of the Year by Managing IP magazine. The award recognizes the success of the Fenwick litigation team—Laurence Pulgram, Jennifer Johnson, Cliff Webb and David Marty—working in conjunction with EFF attorneys Kurt Opsahl and Corynne McSherry to defend Democratic Underground, on a pro bono basis, in the case Righthaven v. Democratic Underground.
"We took on this case not only because of the broad intellectual property implications being argued but also because it's important that the little guy who is in the right has a defense from being bullied," said Fenwick Copyright Litigation Chair, Laurence Pulgram. "We are honored by this recognition and the importance it places on protecting free speech and the doctrine of fair use on the internet."
Mr. Pulgram was in attendance at the awards dinner held last night at the Four Seasons Georgetown Hotel in Washington, DC. Award recipients were determined by a team of researchers who assessed the scope and significance of various decisions impacting intellectual property throughout in United States over the course of the past year.
As part of a lawsuit business model, Righthaven was established to receive copyright assignments from newspapers including the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In 2010, Righthaven sued Democratic Underground after a few sentences from a Review-Journal story were posted to the website.
On June 14, 2011, the Nevada federal court dismissed Righthaven's copyright claim, finding that Righthaven did not receive a valid ownership of copyrights, but only a bare right to sue. The court, in March 2012, further held that Democratic Underground also cannot be found liable for copyright infringement because it did not know about or encourage the posting, only learning of the alleged infringement when the suit was filed, and because the limited excerpt was a fair use in any event.
"This decision is important because it reinforces the doctrine of fair use and finds that a volitional act must be committed for an organization to be liable under copyright law," concluded Mr. Pulgram.
Fenwick & West attorneys have handled some of the most prominent IP litigation over the past two decades, including securing one of the largest IP litigation settlements of 2005—a $400M settlement for its client Compuware against IBM—one of the largest patent verdicts, a $74.7M patent litigation verdict for client Asyst Technologies against Jenoptik, and the landmark Righthaven copyright disputes protecting fair use. The firm is ranked by Managing Intellectual Property as one of the top five West coast firms for IP litigation, by IP Worldwide as one of the top dozen firms that Fortune 500 companies relied on for IP litigation, and was recently awarded "Most Innovative Use of Technology by a Law Firm" by American Lawyer Media for the firm's proprietary electronic discovery tools.
For more than 30 years, Fenwick has served its community by offering legal services to persons and organizations that could not otherwise afford effective legal counsel. We recognize that providing legal services is not only an essential part of our professional responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity to gain valuable practical experience, learn new areas of the law and contribute to the community. As a result of programs like these, our firm has broadened the number of attorneys participating in our pro bono program. To encourage pro bono legal services, Fenwick recognizes all approved pro bono work as "billable" hours for all purposes for non-partner attorneys.