When it comes to litigation, Erich Spangenberg, well known for running a network of patent-holding companies, is usually a plaintiff. Now, though, he's on the other side of a lawsuit, having been named as a third-party defendant in a dispute between patent-holding company DataTern and its former lawyers at Foley & Lardner.
DataTern—a spinoff of an operating company, Firestar Software—made news last year when it settled a closely watched East Texas patent infringement suit against open source software leader Red Hat Inc. The settlement was considered novel because of the protection it offered to Red Hat's developer community. At the time, the parties kept financial terms of the settlement confidential; it has since been revealed that $4.2 million changed hands. (See Red Hat's press release on this settlement; analysis of the agreement at Groklaw; IPLB profile of Red Hat lawyer Richard Fontana.)
Foley & Lardner, which represented DataTern in the suit, claims it is still owed more than $1.5 million in fees for its work on the case. But rather than paying up, DataTern filed suit against Foley in January, essentially saying the firm did such poor work on the matter that it should be the one doing the paying. With the litigation now heating up, Foley has named Spangenberg, his wife, Audrey, and several related companies as defendants in a third-party complaint filed on October 1.