July 12, 2024

The Chief Mag

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Apple Sues Funder for Info on Finnish Company’s Patent Lawsuit

3 min read

Apple Inc. asked a federal court in Delaware to force litigation funder Omni Bridgeway (USA) LLC to answer questions and provide documents relating to a California patent infringement case against the tech giant that’s now in its sixth year.

Omni is connected to Finnish patent owner MPH Technologies Oy’s 2018 suit accusing Apple of infringing patents with its iMessage and FaceTime products, Apple said in a July 3 court filing.

The underlying patent case, filed in a federal court in San Francisco, stalled for years as Apple challenged the patents’ validity at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Apple says it learned of Omni’s connection to the case during discovery, which began last year.

The tech giant subpoenaed Omni, a leading litigation finance firm, for information it had about the case in December 2023. A declaration from an Apple lawyer attached to its filing said lawyers for Apple and Omni met and conferred five times to negotiate Omni’s possible disclosure of information about the patent case but those talks went nowhere. “Omni has not produced any responsive documents” in response to Apple’s subpoena “nor offered any witness for a deposition,” Apple attorney Hannah Cannom wrote in the document.

Her declaration was part of a flurry of documents Apple filed in the US District Court for the District of Delaware. The company also sought permission to seal many of the filings, saying MPH told Apple’s lawyers that Omni was connected to the case but “disclosed that information as highly confidential.”

Omni didn’t deny its role in the suit in a January 2024 letter from lawyer Jen Kash to Cannom, in which the funder objected to the information requests. Kash wrote, however, that Apple’s initial subpoena “does not coherently state what information it seeks” and that Omni was “currently unable to respond.”

The $15.2 billion litigation finance industry, in which investors pool money into lawsuits in exchange for a portion of a successful award, has faced pressure from lawmakers seeking to mandate disclosure in cases involving outside funders. Nearly one-fifth of funders’ capital commitments go to patent litigation, according to a 2023 report from Westfleet Advisers.

Apple and other technology companies that are frequent targets of patent suits have said plaintiffs’ lawyers often portray their inventor clients as little guys up against the titans of the tech world, even when their clients have deep-pocketed backers.

Funders often say that they help even the playing field in suits against massive global corporations. The funding industry has resisted calls for disclosures, arguing it could lead to lengthy discovery battles over information that’s not relevant to underlying litigation.

Omni Bridgeway is one of two publicly traded litigation funders. It committed 9% of its portfolio to patent cases, according to an annual report released last year.

Representatives for Omni and an attorney representing Apple didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg Law requests for comment.

Apple is represented in the Delaware subpoena dispute by DLA Piper.

The case is In Re: Omni Bridgeway LLC, D. Del., 1:24-mc-330, mot. for leave to file under seal 7/3/24.

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