A recent Law 360 story by Andrew Karpan, “Quinn Emanuel Client Hit With $160K In Fees In IP Fight” reports that a China-based client of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP was ordered to cough up over $160,000 in legal fees after its defense in a copyright case ran afoul of California's anti-SLAPP statute. The amount that Northern District of California Judge Edward Chen ultimately arrived at was about $12,000 less than the final fee request from lawyers at the small San Francisco firm Tyz Law Group PC after they beat a dismissal bid in a copyright suit they leveled on behalf of Moonbug Entertainment. Moonbug is the company behind the children's educational brand CoComelon, which runs popular shows on YouTube and Netflix.
The suit accuses a Fuzhou City-based company called BabyBus (Fujian) Network Technology Co. Ltd. of building "its Super JoJo YouTube business by blatantly copying CoComelon." BabyBus' lawyers at Quinn Emanuel responded last September with allegations that Moonbug's lawyers had been "using baseless [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] notices to effectively shut down BabyBus' lawful, competitive business." DMCA notices are sent to companies like YouTube to ask them to take down content that infringes someone's copyright.
The legal fight is ongoing. But Judge Chen had rejected outright BabyBus' contention that the way Moonbug pursued its case against BabyBus violated certain state laws, such as Section 17200 of the California Business & Professions Code. This defense was legally hopeless, Judge Chen wrote last year: "No amendment can cure the fact that the state law counterclaims are preempted by the Copyright Act."
"Moonbug estimated it spent 'roughly' 324 hours in total, accounting for both compensable and non-compensable time spent on the joint motions to dismiss and strike," Judge Chen wrote. According to the decision, the Moonbug lawyers had initially offered to settle the dispute over their legal bills for the whole effort for $96,152. BabyBus offered to pay just $15,580 instead.
The Moonbug lawyers then asked the court for $155,620 in fees but, in a later filing in the matter last year, they beefed the number up to $173,553. The new figure included an additional $17,933 in what the company's lawyers called "reasonable fees-on-fees" that were "not accounted for in its original fees-on-fees request," referring to legal work done in connection with the fee motion. Judge Chen told BayBus to pay out $161,683.
"Moonbug's request for fees on fees is not unreasonable," Judge Chen decided. He also rejected an argument from the BabyBus team that Tyz Law had deliberately overstaffed its legal response in order to collect more in fees. "Moonbug's use of five attorneys of various levels of experience on its anti-SLAPP motions is nothing out of the ordinary," the ruling read. The ruling did, however, trim out a little over 10 hours of work that Tyz Law had attached to the motion "for unnecessary work on a reply brief."