close

Laurence F. Pulgram

Chair, Commercial Litigation

Co-Chair, Copyright Litigation

Partner, Litigation  

San Francisco 415.875.2390

Overview

As trial, litigation and appellate counsel, clients look to Laurence Pulgram to solve their most difficult business disputes. This includes successful trials to verdict in commercial, intellectual property and employment suits and arbitrations; winning arguments in the appellate courts; and practical solutions to resolve disputes before litigation gets rolling. Laurence focuses on software, hardware and internet companies while also maintaining a robust practice representing consumer and media businesses. He co-chairs the firm’s Copyright Litigation Practice Group and chairs the Commercial Litigation Practice Group, two Fenwick teams nationally ranked in the top tier.

In the IP space, he litigates for both copyright owners and for creators of new technologies that provide online access. He has handled a wide array of trademark, trade secret, patent, right of publicity, invasion of privacy and defamation matters. In business litigation, he defends class actions for false advertising, unfair competition and product defects. He also frequently litigates privacy and data security issues, as well as contract, commercial transactions, investments and business tort disputes.

Recognitions

Laurence’s practice is national in scope. He served as chair of the 50,000-member Section of Litigation for the American Bar Association in 2016-17. He won the national Copyright Case of the Year in 2012 (as chosen by Managing Intellectual Property). The Legal 500 recently recommended him as a "strong litigator with very sound business sensibilities and obvious commitment to the best interests of clients." He was chosen by peers as Intellectual Property Lawyer of the Year in San Francisco in 2017 by Best Lawyers/U.S. News, as well as ranked in Commercial and Patent Litigation. He is selected as an IP Star, as a Superlawyer of Northern California, and has been repeatedly as one of the Top Intellectual Property Attorneys in California by The Daily Journal.

Professional Activities

For 20 years, Laurence served as leader of the ABA’s Section of Litigation, including, before becoming section chair, as a head of its Federal Practice Task Force and its Task Force on Independence of the Judiciary. Most recently, Laurence serves as Ninth Circuit member of the ABA’s Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which performs nonpartisan evaluation of nominees to the federal bench. He is the vice chair of Legal Aid at Work in San Francisco. He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a member of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights (San Francisco), a member of the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Association of Business Trial Lawyers and the ABA Section of Intellectual Property Law. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Frequently sought out as a thought leader on emerging IP issues, Laurence has been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomberg News, Reuters and The National Law Journal, among other publications. His pro bono practice includes extensive work on copyright fair use issues, including an amicus brief cited by the majority decision of the Supreme Court in MGM v. Grokster, and constitutional rights of privacy.

Laurence previously served as law clerk for the Hon. Sam C. Pointer Jr., Chief Judge of the Northern District of Alabama.

Representative Engagements


Copyright

Netbula v. Chordiant: Prevailed in jury trial representing a client, Chordiant, that had acknowledged use of software components beyond the scope of its license. The jury awarded only $1.2 million out of the $32 million requested by plaintiff in closing (and a fraction of what Chordiant had offered to settle pre-trial); plaintiff was denied attorneys’ fees. In two separate copyright cases brought by Netbula against Sun Microsystems and Symantec, won summary judgment of non-infringement and attorneys’ fees awards.

King.com v. 6Waves: Won stipulated permanent injunction and payment covering attorneys’ fees and part of infringer’s profits on behalf of client King.com in its lawsuit against competitor 6Waves alleging infringement of copyrights in video games.

Sugar Hill Music v. CBS Interactive: Successfully defended CBSI against claims for inducement of copyright infringement by distribution of peer-to-peer software (Limewire and Bittorent) that can be used for copying of music files.  Defeated request for preliminary injunction and, after victory in numerous pre-trial orders, obtained dismissals of all 52 plaintiffs for no payment.

Righthaven v. Democratic Underground: In the “Copyright Case of the Year,” won ruling that “copyright troll” Righthaven’s receipts of assignments of rights to sue did not afford it legal standing, thereby winning summary judgment and an award of attorneys’ fees for client. The case ultimately ended the business model Righthave had used to file scores of cases across the country.

A&M Records v. Napster: Led a team defending Napster against the recording industry’s copyright lawsuits and over 20 other actions consolidated in multi-district litigation. Although Napster was enjoined, we obtained stay and modification of injunctions through appeals, and won denial of motion for summary judgment.

American Broadcasting Company v. Replay TV: Defended manufacturer of DVR software against claims it facilitated copyright infringement by TV viewers who could use it to skip commercials.

Metro Golden Mayer v. Grokster: Submitted amicus brief on behalf of technologists cited with approval in the majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Harvard University: Represented university in transactions and litigation strategy relating to copying of Harvard libraries by Google for its Google Book project.

Trademark, Trade Secret, Right of Publicity and Other Intellectual Property

Nextdoor.com v. Abhyanker: Won summary judgment for Nextdoor.com, Inc. granting rights to that name in online social networking and finding the defendant liable for trademark infringement. Ruling included a rare opinion that, as a matter of law, the term “NEXTDOOR” as used for a neighborhood service was merely suggestive, not descriptive. Obtained dismissal with prejudice of all counterclaims, including misappropriation of trade secrets and trademark infringement, brought by owner of “FATDOOR” trademark. Obtained dismissal with prejudice of all claims against Nextdoor.com for patent infringement.

Groupion v. Groupon: Laurence and his team won summary judgment that client Groupon did not infringe trademark of GROUPION software on the rare grounds that there was no likelihood of confusion as a matter of law.

Global VR v. Foley: Obtained TRO, preliminary injunction and ultimately a stipulated money judgment for video game maker Global VR against CTO who surreptitiously operated a competing business using Global VR’s technology​. Obtained sanctions for destruction of evidence and cooperated with criminal prosecution that obtained conviction of former CTO.

Successfactors v. Softscape: Obtained preliminary injunction and favorable settlement for Successfactors against competitor alleged to have fraudulently obtained access to trade secrets, infringed trademarks and unfairly competed with employment software offerings.

Opsware v. Bladelogic: In multi-coastal, expedited litigations, obtained preliminary injunction against enforcement of non-competition agreement allowing former employee of competitor to join client’s software business.

Corbis Right of Publicity Cases: Won summary judgment dismissing lawsuits brought by singers/actresses Shirley Jones, Bonnie Pointer and Anna Maria Alberghetti alleging misappropriation of their rights of publicity based on online display and licensing of their images by Corbis, an image licensing service. Obtained two awards of attorneys’ fees in favor of Corbis.

Class Actions, Privacy and Unfair Competition (Cal. B&P Code Section 17200)

Bauknight v. Corbis: Obtained, after being substituted as counsel, decertification of nationwide class that had been certified by Cook County, Illinois, Circuit Court for assertion of claims against Corbis for misappropriation of entertainers’ rights of publicity. Also successfully opposed motions for class certification of classes of performing artists seeking class certification in Alberghetti v. Corbis and Jones v. Corbis.

Haskins v. Symantec: Won dismissal on the pleadings of putative class action asserting false advertising and unfair competition claims based on Symantec’s failure to disclose a security breach that allegedly exposed source code for Norton Anti-Virus software. Decision established a new standard for determining necessity of allegation that a plaintiff actually saw and relied upon purportedly false ads. The trial court’s decision was affirmed on appeal by the Ninth Circuit in 2016. 

Yunker v. Pandora: Defended against allegations that the Pandora music service violated customers’ privacy and contractual rights by purportedly collecting personal information through its mobile app, won multiple motions dismissing complaint and narrowing the case on the pleadings, ultimately resulting in successful disposal of the case.

Menagerie Productions v. IAC Interactive: After successfully defeating class certification for most claims that client IAC had engaged in “click fraud” (i.e., charging advertisers for online clicks that did not genuinely engage with ads), obtained review by Ninth Circuit of the remaining portion of an order that partially certified the class, resulting in resolution of the matter for a de minimis sum.

Cisneros v. Ask.com: Defended against and successfully obtained dismissal, without payment of compensation, of claims against search engine for unfair competition based on sale of advertising for allegedly illegal gambling activities.

San Francisco City Tours v. Groupon: Successful defense of claim for unfair business practices and false advertising based on purchases of keyword advertising on the internet.

Knable v. Intuit: Obtained full dismissal on the pleadings of all claims, including warranties, contracts, unfair competition and invasion of privacy based on Intuit’s alleged insertion of “spyware” in TurboTax software.

Investigations: Represented numerous targets of federal, state and local governmental investigations into unfair competition and false advertising cases, including resolutions on favorable terms with groups of over 20 state attorneys general.

Commercial Litigation

Bustamante v. Intuit: Won summary judgment and affirmance on appeal against $100 million claim that Intuit defrauded and failed to perform alleged contract to allow plaintiff to adapt and launch Quickbooks products in Mexico.

Antonioli v. Ghirardo: Won trial and affirmance on appeal (subsequently reversed under subsequent counsel) of breach of commercial agreement, in case that established standards for application of usury statutes in California.

Cisco v. Compel: Represented Cisco in international arbitration and litigation over terms of a software license agreement, resulting in obtaining of rights through mediated solution.

Executive Life Insurance: Represented the Commissioner of Insurance of California in numerous litigations and successful appeals relating to the insolvency of the then largest insurance insolvency in California history.

Confidential Arbitrations and Transactional Disputes: Have obtained, and defended against, hundreds of millions of dollars in recoveries in non-public disputes relating to commercial and licensing transactions.

Williams v. SF Weekly: Won anti-SLAPP motion and dismissal of claims for libel brought by local candidate against national chain of news weeklies, and recovered award of attorneys’ fees.

Citron Research v. WestSummit Capital: Successfully obtained dismissal for venture capital firm after filing anti-SLAPP motion against claims asserted by short seller who claimed he had been defamed by assertions of fraudulent activity.

Entrust Technologies v. Verisign: Defeated TRO and motion for preliminary injunction that attempted to enjoin Verisign’s $900 million acquisition of Thawte Consulting, resulting in dismissal of the action and completion of the merger.

Recent Appearances and Presentations

  • “Jack vs the Giant: Keeping Reins on a Case with Disproportionate Burdens,” Section of Litigation Annual CLE Conference, American Bar Association, April 16, 2016
  • “Cheaper and More Efficient Litigation Under the New Federal Rules,” Corporate Counsel Seminar, American Bar Association, February 12, 2016
  • “General Counsel Forum,” Corporate Counsel Seminar, American Bar Association, February 11, 2016
  • “Hello ‘Proportionality,’ Goodbye ‘Reasonably Calculated’: Reinventing Case Management and Discovery Under the 2015 Civil Rules Amendments,” American Bar Association, January 28, 2016
  • "Garcia v. Google: Copyright Performance Rights & Politics," American Bar Association, July 31, 2015
  • ABC v. Aereo: What the Supreme Court Decided - And What It Did Not," Fenwick & West, July 23, 2014
  • “Altai@21: Software Copyrights Revisited,” Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, October 25, 2013
  • "Legal Frontiers in Digital Media: Digital Copyright Mashup," Stanford Law School, May 17, 2013
  • "Litigation A Trade Secret Case," Bridgeport Continuing Education, March 29, 2013
  • "From Public Squares to Platforms: Free Expression in the Networked World," Stanford Law School, November 30, 2011
  • "Recent Cases on Right of Publicity and the First Amendment," Copyright Society of San Francisco, January 12, 2011
  • "Video Piracy – Without The Piracy," Forbes, September 8, 2008
  • "Exploiting the Social Graph: What are the Boundaries; Legal or Otherwise," OnHollywood 2008 Conference, June 10, 2008
  • "Can Copyright and DRM be Fair and Balanced?," OnHollywood 2007 Conference, May 2, 2007
  • "Copyright, DRM Technology and Consumer Protection," Moderator, U.C. Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, March 10, 2007
  • "MGM v. Grokster – Not Just About Music: Implications for All IP Owners and Technology Developers," Strafford Publications, Inc., July 21, 2005
  • "What Grokster Really Means for Your Business – a Non-Instant Analysis," Fenwick & West Intellectual Property and Litigation Practice Groups, July 12, 2005
  • "Sony v. Universal: The Betamax Decision Twenty Years Hence," Symposium, Southwestern University Law Review, March 11, 2004
  • "Litigation at the Cutting Edges of Technology Law," Lecture, Stanford LLM Program, August 27, 2003
  • "Feature Distribution and the Threat of Internet Piracy – Evaluating the Short and Long-Term Implications," Digital Hollywood at CES, Digital Hollywood, January 9, 2003
  • "The Entertainment Industry vs. ReplayTV: Fast Forwarding the Laws of Copyright and Fair Use," Berkeley Center for Law and Technology, October 2, 2002
  • "Digital Landscapes: Redrawing the Boundaries in Entertainment, Media and the Law," Stanford Law and Technology Association, April 20, 2002

Publications

  • "The Top Seven Takeaways from the December 2015 Federal Rules Amendments," IP Frontline, January 2016
  • “Whither Copyright Injunctions in the Post-Garcia World?,” Media Law Resource Center Media Law Letter, May 2015 (co-author)
  • Fox v. Dish Summary Judgment Rulings,” Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal, April 2015
  • "Ninth Circuit Holds Computer Fraud and Abuse Act Criminalizes Employee’s Access to Information in Violation of Employer’s Express Access Limitations," Fenwick & West Litigation Alert, May 2, 2011 (co-author)
  • "U.S. Supreme Court Enforces Class Action Waivers in Consumer Arbitration Agreements," Fenwick & West Litigation Alert, April 28, 2011 (co-author)
  • "Effects of Recent Rulings on the Enforceability of Open Source Licenses," Fenwick & West IP Bulletin, July 7, 2009 (co-author)
  • "Seventh Circuit Upholds CDA Immunity for Craigslist—But What Is The Impact, If Any, On Roommate.com?," Fenwick & West Litigation Alert, March 17, 2008 (co-author)
  • "Ninth Circuit Limits CDA Immunity for ISPs," Fenwick & West Litigation Alert, May 17, 2007 (co-author)
​​​​​​​​​​