In a January 2024 Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article entitled “IP boutique: defendants copied motion to dismiss”, L&A partner and IP litigator Craig R. Smith weighed in on an unusual case of alleged copyright infringement of a legal motion.
Craig mentions that in his 25 years of practice, he has only seen a few cases where a law firm copyrighted its brief and filed a claim for copyright infringement. He emphasizes that it’s highly unusual for a law firm to register copyright for its briefs and then enforce those copyrights against other firms.
The article primarily discusses a legal dispute between Hsuanyeh Legal Group (HLG) and Winston & Strawn regarding the alleged copying of a motion to dismiss. The article also includes perspectives from other legal professionals on the case, such as Jerry Cohen and Edward S. Cheng, who provide insights on copyright issues, fair use defenses, ethical considerations, and potential violations of professional rules.
In terms of potential ethics violations, Smith said some states are more particular about plagiarism than others. Under the ethical rules in New York, where HLG’s action is filed, Smith said some form of copying of briefs may not be an ethics violation.
“But there are some states that have looked at similar plagiarism issues in regard to pleadings and have indicated that copying large portions of the work without giving any attribution of where they came from could raise ethical concerns,” Smith said.
Read the full article in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (paywall).