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Benchslap of the Day: Leading IP Litigator Gets Taste of ‘Pimp Hand’

Matthew Powers: 'pimp hands' don't knot neckties.

The renowned IP litigator Matthew Powers, founding partner of Tensegrity Law Group, has a nickname here at Above the Law. We like to call him Matt “Pimp Hand” Powers. Back in 2008, a paralegal at Weil Gotshal alleged in a lawsuit that Powers, former cochair of litigation at Weil, ruled over his domain by alternating between use of the “pimp hand” and the “mojo hand.” The “pimp hand” was used to intimidate and coerce, while the “mojo hand” was used to stroke and cajole.

Over the years, numerous litigants have felt the sting of Powers’s pimp hand. He has been described, quite accurately, as “one of the most feared, respected, and successful patent litigators in the country.” As noted on his website bio, Matt Powers “is known for taking tough cases to trial and winning them,” on behalf of leading technology companies like Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and Intel.

But now the tables have turned. Powers recently found himself on the receiving end of a benchslap — from a lowly administrative law judge, ick….

Matthew Powers currently serves as counsel to Apple in its high-profile patent battle with Motorola. Earlier this week, Thomas Pender, an administrative law judge on the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), ruled that Apple infringed on a Motorola patent relating to elimination of noise and other interference with voice and data transmissions. Judge Pender’s ruling will be reviewed by the full commission, which is expected to issue a decision in August.

In addition to ruling on the substantive issues, Judge Pender issued a sanctions order (reg. req.) against Apple, based on alleged misrepresentations by Apple’s counsel. From the order:

Woof! Matt Powers just got smacked by an ALJ’s pimp hand — and it hurts way more than a gavel. Is this ALJ going to have to choke a b**ch?

(The order does not mention Powers by name, but we’ve been advised by multiple sources that he presented the opening statement containing the alleged misrepresentations.)

On the bright side, Judge Pender did not grant Motorola’s requested relief (deeming infringement admitted as to a particular element of a particular claim). Instead, the judge merely ordered Apple to reimburse Motorola for the additional costs that Motorola incurred in responding to the alleged misrepresentation. Considering that Apple has over $110 billion in cash, they can afford it.

We reached out to Powers for comment on Judge Pender’s order. Powers referred us to his former Weil partner, Mark Davis, who is counsel of record for Apple in the ITC. Davis had no comment. We also contacted Charles F. Schill of Steptoe & Johnson, counsel to Motorola, to see if he had anything to say about the ruling on the order to show cause. Schill declined to comment as well, graciously declining the opportunity to gloat.

Powers is a superstar of the IP bar, but this isn’t the first time he has been on the receiving end of a benchslap, as longtime ATL readers may recall. Back in 2009, Judge Leonard Davis (E.D. Tex.) accused Powers of misstating the law to a jury. Judge Davis cited Powers’s alleged misstatements in adding a $40 million enhancement to the amount that Microsoft, Powers’s client, was ordered to pay for infringing a patent of i4i Limited Partnership. (Microsoft appealed the infringement ruling to the Federal Circuit, which affirmed, and to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also affirmed.)

In fairness to Powers, a litigator who’s as sought-after he is, and who handles as many big cases as he does, will make a mistake every now and then. The key is owning up to mistakes when they do occur, instead of blaming the associates dogs for eating the homework.

Benchslaps can burn — but we here at Above the Law appreciate lawyers like Matt Powers who have thick skins. And as prominent patent litigators who leave Biglaw to start their own lucrative boutiques can tell you, there’s no salve quite like cold hard cash.

Apple infringes on Motorola Mobility patent: ITC judge [Reuters]
In re Certain Wireless Communication Devices (Inv. No. 337-TA-745): Order No. 34
[U.S. International Trade Commission (reg. req.)]
Boutique Firms Mean Freedom of Choice for IP Litigators [Corporate Counsel]

Earlier: $40 Million Benchslap for Weil Gotshal
Lawsuit of the Day: As the Paralegal World Turns…
Lawyer of the Day: SCOTUS Victor Advises Losing Litigant to Read Opinion ‘Eternally from Hell’

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