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Attorneys Seek $4.3M in Long Running Trade Secrets Litigation

April 27, 2022 | Posted in : Fee Clause, Fee Entitlement / Recoverability, Fee Request, Hourly Rates, Hours Billled, Practice Area: IP Litigation, Trial / Jury / Verdict

A recent Law 360 story by Andrew Karpan, “Atty Seek $4.3M In Fees For 13-Year Trade Secrets Suit” reports that lawyers for an Austrian-owned electronics company have asked a Texas federal judge to allow them to collect over $4.3 million in fees from losing party Renesas Electronics at what could be the end of a decade-long trade secrets saga, if the now-$48 million case doesn't head to a jury for a third time.  The fee bid came from the Dallas law firm that has continuously represented Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions Inc. since its initial 2008 lawsuit against a California rival chipmaker named Intersil.  In the time since, Texas Advanced was sold to austriamicrosystems AG and renamed AMS Sensors USA Inc., Intersil was absorbed by Japanese conglomerate Renesas, and law firm Munck Carter PC became Munck Wilson Mandala LLP.

"Plaintiff seeks its reasonable attorneys' fees after 13.5 years of contentious litigation," Munck Wilson's motion reads.  Legal filings in the case had spanned "886 docket entries," and the case went to a jury twice.  In 2015, a jury agreed with AMS Sensors' argument that Renesas used failed merger talks to steal legally protectable trade secrets related to light sensors that Renesas sells companies including Apple to use in products like iPhones and iPods. Renesas was ordered to pay AMS $88.7 million in damages, although a Texas federal judge trimmed the amount to $77 million.

But the Federal Circuit later ruled that AMS' lawyers made a legally incorrect argument to jurors in that case: the exact amount of damages that Renesas owed should have formally come from the judge instead.  The Texas federal judge overseeing the case then declared senior status and, noting that he now had "limited time to devote to this matter," immediately handed the case to U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III, who sent the case to a jury again last year.  That time, the jury delivered only an "advisory" award of nearly $85.9 million. Last month, Judge Mazzant set the damages award at $48 million.

According to AMS, the original agreement the companies inked in 2004 to cover the merger negotiations "specifically provides that the parties 'will indemnify and hold harmless the other against any and all damages, loss, or liability (including reasonable attorney's fees).'"  Citing the clause, the company and its attorneys put forward a request for $4,332,265 in fees.  The lawyers say this accounts for "merely one-third of the total hours worked before the proceedings on remand, and just one-half of the total hours worked thereafter."

To defend their rates, the Munck Wilson attorneys cited what they could find about how much Renesas' lawyers at Foley & Lardner LLP are known to bill their clients.  For example, they found a deposition delivered by Foley's William Robinson after he won a 2014 trademark case that attested his "average rate" is "$769/hour."  Munck Wilson asked to list the actual rates it was asking for under seal.