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March 4, 2011 3:18 PM

Federal Judge Sanctions Howrey Client Over "Vexatious Litigation Strategy"

Posted by Brian Baxter

With its remaining partners reportedly set to vote on winding down the firm next week, Howrey took a hit in federal court in Oakland Thursday when a judge found that one of the firm's clients had engaged in litigation misconduct and ordered it to pay $339,315 in costs and potentially millions in attorneys' fees, according to sibling publication The Recorder.

In a 22-page ruling, U.S. district court judge Claudia Wilken ordered Howrey client O2Micro International to pay the costs as a result of a series of patent suits filed against Monolithic Power Systems (MPS).

The Recorder reports that Monolithic's lawyers from Latham & Watkins and Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner persuaded Wilken that O2Micro had engaged in a "vexatious litigation strategy" against MPS, a San Jose-based semiconductor manufacturer.

Current and former Howrey IP partners K.T. "Sunny" Cherian, Duane Mathiowetz, Frank Coté, Henry Su, and Robert Harkins, Jr., are representing 02Micro, a Cayman Islands-based company that makes circuits used in computer screens, cell phones, and GPS devices.

Coté was one of two Howrey lawyers that left for Jones Day's Irvine, Calif., outpost last month, when Mathiowetz jumped to Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman's San Francisco office. Cherian, who used to be one of Howrey's top IP rainmakers, left the firm in mid-February with four other partners for Hogan Lovells in San Francisco. According to Martindale.com, Su is now with the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. Harkins remains at Howrey.

The Recorder reports that Wilken's ruling faults O2Micro's lawyers for also engaging in litigation misconduct by trying to hide a witness's false testimony about the date of an invention by filing "baseless motions." 02Micro and Monolithic have faced off in five patent infringement cases in the Northern District of California since 2001, according to The Recorder. Most of the claims in O2Micro's latest suit--filed in October 2008--were voluntarily dismissed in June.

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