SJC Approves Joint Defense Agreements in Massachusetts

by Lee Gesmer on February 7, 2008

Lately, I’ve had a number of cases where the lawyer for a co-defendant wants to cooperate. Because this usually involves sharing attorney-client privileged information, we agree that our discussions are covered by the “joint defense privilege,” and sometimes enter into a “joint defense agreement.”

Recent discussions in this area reminded me that I never mentioned the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s 2007 decision in Hanover Insurance Company v. Rapo & Jepsen Insurance Services, Inc., where the SJC, for the first time, gave broad approval to cooperation between attorneys whose clients share a common interest. The court held (or sugggested) that the “common interest doctrine,” which enables joint defense agreements, covers not only co-defendants, but co-plaintiffs, nonparties to litigation, and a party and a nonparty. A shared interest agreement need not be in writing, and the clients need not have been aware of it or consented to it. The interests of the parties need not be identical, as long as they are similar.Read the full article

First Circuit Decision on Copyright Preemption

by Lee Gesmer on December 18, 2007

The First Circuit has published a complex decision involving copyright preemption of a state law claim for an accounting of profits between co-authors of a copyrighted work. The case, Cambridge Literary Properties, Ltd. v.W. GoebelPorzellanfabrik G.m.b.H & Co. KG (1st Cir. Dec. 13, 2007), has a tortured procedural history. In fact, the First Circuit issued an earlier decision in the case as far back as 2002.

The case is quite complex, and involves the chain of copyright ownership in the famous Hummel figurines designed in Germany in 1931 The fundamental holding is that the federal Copyright statute bars a state law action for an accounting of profits between co-owners (co-owners of a copyright work are have a duty to account to each other for profits) because the condition precedent for that claim — co-authorship status — is premised on copyright law, which has a three year statute of limitations. Here the co-ownership claim was barred by this statute of limitations.… Read the full article

Angel Financing Could Do With A Little Streamlining

by Lee Gesmer on November 15, 2007

Investments by angel groups have become too complicated. As groups get more aggressive in pursuing profits, and seek more protection against downside risk, their deals have become as complex as venture capital deals. This complexity costs time and money, reducing the benefit to both investors and companies. By streamlining the transaction structure, angel groups could simplify negotiations, shorten the time it takes to do a deal, reduce transaction costs, put more money to work building new companies and ultimately improve their own returns.

Click here to continue reading this article, by my partner Bill Contente, which was published in the November 9, 2007 issue of the Boston Business Journal.

And, as long as I’m shamelessly showing off all the brilliant people I’ve been able to surround myself with, here is an article recently published by my partner Andy Updegrove in the October 26, 2007 issue of Mass High Tech:

How often have you heard it said that “patents foster innovation?”

Read the full article


by Lee Gesmer on November 13, 2007

ScotusBlog is, in my view, an example of just how good a legal blog can be. A group of lawyers at Akin Gump, assisted by attorneys at several other firms and universities, provide in-depth, daily briefing and commentary on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). If you are inclined to follow the Supreme Court, this is the first place to go. You may never need to go elsewhere.

Now ScotusBlog has added ScotusWiki, a companion site that provides comprehensive information on each SCOTUS case and will, presumably, allow universal editing, a la Wikipedia.

However, even in its current, nascent form the wiki is facsinating. The editors dedicate a page to each case, where they provide a case summary and links to all of the briefs, and more, for each case. For example, here is a link to the page dedicated to Stoneridge v. Scientific-Atlanta, a case that received enormous attention leading up to oral argument.… Read the full article