Lans v. Llp

Decision Date23 May 2011
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 02–2165 (RBW).
Citation786 F.Supp.2d 240
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia
PartiesHåkan LANS and Uniboard Aktiebolag, Plaintiffs,v.ADDUCI MASTRIANI & SCHAUMBERG L.L.P., et al., Defendants.


Christopher Read Wall, Jack McKay, Matthew J. MacLean, William Thomas Devinney, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.Aaron L. Handleman, Michael Philip Freije, Eccleston & Wolf, P.C., Jack McKay, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Rodney Ray Sweetland, III, McKool Smith, P.C., Mark A. Srere, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Brooke Clagett, Law Office of Brooke Clagett, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


REGGIE B. WALTON, District Judge.

Dr. Håkan Lans and Uniboard Aktiebolag (Uniboard), the plaintiffs in this civil suit, seek to recover “actual and treble” compensatory and punitive damages from the defendants in an amount to be determined at a trial, as well as injunctive relief in the form of the imposition of a constructive trust, Third Amended Complaint (the “Compl.”) at 56–57, due to (1) multiple alleged breaches by the defendants of their duty of care and fiduciary duty in regard to legal representation provided to the plaintiffs in various matters, see Id. ¶¶ 11–12 (listing four discrete breaches of the duty of care by the defendants and nineteen discrete breaches of their fiduciary duty by the defendants); (2) perjury committed as “part of a pattern of conduct designed corruptly to influence a judge of a United States [District] Court[ ] and obstruct or impede the due administration of justice,” Id. ¶ 6; (3) conversion of “funds received in trust for [the p]laintiffs,” Id. ¶ 8; and (4) “racketeering activity ... designed ... to avoid the consequences of [the d]efendants' negligence,” Id. ¶ 9. The plaintiffs contend that these misdeeds resulted in the loss of the plaintiffs' proprietary interests in a patent allegedly worth “more than $100 million.” Id. ¶ 13. Currently before the Court are separate dispositive motions: a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and forum non conveniens filed by defendants Delphi & Co. (“Delphi”), Peter Utterström, and Talbot Lindström (collectively the “Delphi Defendants), and a motion for partial judgment on the pleadings filed by defendants Adduci, Mastriani & Schaumberg, L.L.P. (AMS), Louis Mastriani, Tom Schaumberg, and V. James Adduci (collectively the “AMS Defendants). Upon carefully considering the plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint, the defendants' motions, and all memoranda and exhibits submitted with these filings,1 the Court concludes for the reasons that follow that it must deny the Delphi Defendants' motion and grant in part the AMS Defendants' motion.

I. Background 2

Although the facts giving rise to this litigation are relatively straightforward, the procedural history of this case is a long and tortured one. In the mid–1970s, Dr. Lans, “one of the most well[-]regarded scientists in Sweden,” Compl. ¶ 15, “began working on the development of a color graphics system for computers and data processing and display systems,” Id. ¶ 24. This work resulted in the invention of “a system and apparatus for managing the picture memory of a digital color graphics imaging system,” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted), which Dr. Lans patented in the United States, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Norway, Id. ¶¶ 24–25. This patent, U.S. Patent No. 4,303,986 (the “'986 Patent”), was registered in the United States on December 1, 1981, and expired on January 9, 1999. Id. ¶ 26.

“Since at least 1985, Dr. Lans has been the [m]anaging [d]irector and sole shareholder of Uniboard,” a “Swedish corporation with its principal place of business” in Salsjöbaden, Sweden. Id. ¶ 16. “On October 19, 1989, ... Dr. Lans assigned [his] rights in the '986 Patent to Uniboard.” Id. ¶ 30. That same day, “Uniboard entered into a non-exclusive agreement to license the '986 Patent to IBM.” Id. Dr. Lans also “signed a document ... that clarified his retention of the ownership of the '986 Patent while transferring the licensing rights under the '986 Patent to Uniboard.” Id. ¶ 31.

Six years later, Peter Utterström, the managing partner of Swedish law firm Delphi, Id. ¶¶ 21–22, “approached Dr. Lans about enforcing the '986 Patent and convinced Dr. Lans to meet with him and Lindstr[ö]m,” Id. ¶ 32, a District of Columbia attorney affiliated with Delphi as “of counsel,” Id. ¶ 23, to discuss the project, Id. ¶ 32. Lindström, in turn, contacted AMS, Id. ¶ 33, “a District of Columbia law firm ... claim[ing] to have extensive experience in patent matters,” Id. ¶ 17, “after which Lindstr[ö]m and Utterstr[ö]m of Delphi and Mastriani and Schaumberg[, principals] of AMS [,] began to correspond about the possibility of pursuing patent infringers of the '986 Patent,” Id. ¶¶ 18–19, 33. “As part of their review of the ' 986 Patent in 1995, Delphi, Lindstr[ö]m[,] and Utterstr[ö]m determined that IBM had entered into a non-exclusive license agreement to use the '986 Patent,” a fact they shared with AMS. Id. ¶ 34.

Mastriani wrote Dr. Lans directly in March of 1996, urging Dr. Lans to “pursu [e] infringers of the '986 Patent,” and suggesting that “litigation could be brought in the name of a company to which Dr. Lans could assign the '986 Patent.” Id. ¶ 35. “On May 9, 1996, Mastriani faxed Lindstr[ö]m a request that he set up a meeting with Dr. Lans on May 17, 1996[,] in Stockholm,” and “faxed a proposal to Dr. Lans requesting that Delphi and AMS represent him in connection with pursuing infringers of the '986 Patent.” Id. ¶ 36. Twelve days after this May 17 meeting with Dr. Lans, Shaumberg, Utterström, and Lindström, Id. ¶ 38, “Mastriani sent a proposal to Dr. Lans for notifying and suing infringers of the '986 Patent,” Id. ¶ 39. In that proposal, “Mastriani acknowledged that the '986 Patent would expire in December [of] 1998,” although the actual expiration date was January 9, 1999. Id.

On or about August 9, 1996, Dr. Lans entered into a fee agreement with AMS and Delphi (the “Fee Agreement”). Id. ¶ 45. “Under the [terms of] the Fee Agreement, Dr. Lans was to receive 67% of all recoveries from infringers of the '986 Patent, and the attorneys were to receive 33%, to be divided as they chose.” Id. ¶ 41. “The Fee Agreement gave AMS and Delphi the right of access to all licensing and litigation concerning the '986 Patent ... anywhere in the world,” Id. ¶ 42, and also vested AMS and Delphi with “complete discretion in the conduct of negotiations concerning licensing strategy,” Id. ¶ 43. Further, the Fee Agreement vested AMS with “exclusive discretion in the conduct of litigation.” Id. ¶ 44.

“From September [of] 1996 through March [of] 1997, AMS sent approximately 100 letters giving notice of the '986 Patent to potential infringers....” Id. ¶ 49. All of these notices were sent in Dr. Lans's name. Id. Mastriani, Adduci (a principal of AMS), and Schaumberg also met with Utterström and Lindström in July of 1997 at AMS's office in Washington, D.C., to discuss, inter alia, whether suits for infringement of the ' 986 Patent “should be brought in Dr. Lans'[s] name or in the name of ... Uniboard.” Id. ¶¶ 20, 60. Ultimately, the defendants “decided that the lawsuit[s] should be filed in Dr. Lans'[s] name only.” Id. ¶ 60.

On October 24, 1997, AMS filed separate patent infringement suits in this Court—all in the name of Dr. Lans—against Digital Equipment Corporation (“Digital Equipment”), Gateway 2000, Inc. (“Gateway”), Hewlett–Packard Company (“Hewlett–Packard”), Packard Bell NEC, Inc. (Packard Bell), Dell Computer Corporation (“Dell”), Compaq Computer Corporation (“Compaq”), Acer America Corporation (“Acer”), and AST Research, Inc. (collectively the “Computer Companies”). See generally Lans v. Digital Equip. Corp., Civil Action No. 97–2493(JGP) (D.D.C.); Lans v. Gateway 2000, Inc., Civil Action No. 97–2523(RBW) (D.D.C.); Lans v. Hewlett–Packard Co., Civil Action No. 97–2524(JGP) (D.D.C.); Lans v. Packard Bell NEC, Inc., Civil Action No. 97–2525(JGP) (D.D.C.); Lans v. Dell Computer Corp., Civil Action No. 97–2526(RBW) (D.D.C.); Lans v. Compaq Computer Corp., Civil Action No. 97–2527(JGP) (D.D.C.); Lans v. Acer Am. Corp., Civil Action No. 97–2528(JGP) (D.D.C.); Lans v. AST Research, Inc., Civil Action No. 97–2529(JGP) (D.D.C.).3 These civil actions (collectively the Lans Civil Actions”) were assigned to Judge Penn of this Court until his passing in October of 2007.

As part of the discovery process in the Lans Civil Actions, “Gateway asked IBM for a copy of the document under which Uniboard claimed the right to assign rights in the '986 Patent to IBM.” Compl. ¶ 90. After receiving a copy of this document, Gateway filed a motion to dismiss Dr. Lans's complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment “based upon a lack of standing and attached the assignment from [Dr.] Lans to Uniboard in support of its motion.” Id. ¶ 91. Thereafter, the other Computer Companies filed motions to dismiss for the same reason. See Id. ¶ 96. AMS responded on Dr. Lans's behalf by filing both oppositions to these motions and motions for leave to file amended complaints substituting Uniboard as the plaintiff in each of the Lans Civil Actions.

On November 23, 1999, Judge Penn issued a memorandum opinion granting Gateway's motion for summary judgment and denying Dr. Lans's motion seeking leave to file an amended complaint. Lans v. Gateway 2000, Inc., 84 F.Supp.2d 112, 123 (D.D.C.1999) (“ Lans I ”).4 Judge Penn described the factual background of the case before him as follows:

Prior to filing his motion for leave to amend by substituting plaintiffs, [Dr.] Lans had denied that the '986 [P]atent had ever been assigned. [Dr.] Lans's original complaint made no mention of Uniboard or any assignment. During discovery, [Dr.] Lans appeared to resist disclosing any information that would cast doubt on his status as patentee. For example, in...

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