Check, Please: Experts Say Apple, Samsung Face Sky-High Legal Fees

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Written By admin at Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Harry Campbell

One group was always going to make out well in the titanic legal battle between Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.: the lawyers.

Morrison & Foerster LLP and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr LLP headed up the legal team for Apple – which claimed victory on Friday –  while Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP led the team for Samsung.

Attorney fees could add up to tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions for each side, according to some estimates. Legal experts say the money was well spent, given the stakes.

Court documents show that some Morrison Foerster partners and of counsel billed a median rate of $ 582 an hour for work on portions of the case, while some Quinn Emanuel partners billed on average $ 821 per hour. Spokeswomen for both law firms did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“This is big, high-stakes litigation,” said Donald R. Dunner, a patent law expert and senior partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP. “They’ve got the best lawyers they could find, and they charge fees that are commensurate with their talent.”

Mr. Dunner estimated that each side could have spent $ 10 to $ 20 million on the case.

Others said the cost could be much more. “My estimate for this trial is a half a billion total,” said intellectual property lawyer Mark A. Lemley, a professor at Stanford Law School and founding partner of the law firm Durie Tangri LLP.

Included in the total: about $ 4 million apiece for expert witnesses, according to one estimate by Brian Love, an associate law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.

“As large as the legal fees can be in a case like this, the potential downsides can dwarf the legal costs,” said Q. Todd Dickinson, executive director of the American Intellectual Property Law Association and a lawyer and former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“The investment in the best legal services—and making sure you turn over every rock—can sometimes be worth it.”

Patent litigation is likely to remain a boon for lawyers.  With tech companies duking it out over smartphones in some 50 lawsuits worldwide, “it wouldn’t surprise me if the smartphone companies have spent a billion in legal fees,” Mr. Lemley said.

“We know they’ve spent $ 15 billion in the last two years buying patents… so the companies clearly think there is far more at stake than what they are paying their lawyers.”

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