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By Peter Leung
The law firms of Kobre & Kim LLP and Baker & Partners, along with litigation funding firm Bentham IMF, will investigate bringing a lawsuit against patent servicing company CPA Global Limited, the firms announced Sept. 29.
The proposed lawsuit targets one of the biggest IP servicing firms in the market. CPA provides international patent portfolio management services, such as monitoring and paying fees for renewing patents. In August, private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners purchased CPA in a deal that could be worth 2.4 billion pounds ($3.2 billion), according to Bloomberg News.
The firms are investigating allegations that CPA overcharged clients of its patent renewal services and may file a lawsuit on the English Channel island of Jersey, where CPA is incorporated, according to the firms’ press release. The plaintiffs would be CPA clients who have service agreements designating the island as the forum for disputes, the firms said.
CPA Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs Claire Barker told Bloomberg BNA in an emailed statement that the company “categorically and emphatically denies any wrongdoing,” and that “speculation about future litigation” is an attempt to tarnish its reputation.
In June 2016, a CPA client brought a class action against the company in U.S. district court, also alleging overcharging for patent renewal services. The parties in that lawsuit have agreed to a settlement of $5.6 million to be shared by a class of about 3,000 plaintiffs, with 33 percent for the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees, according to court documents. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia is set to hold a hearing Oct. 6 concerning final approval of the settlement.
Michael Ng, a lawyer with Kobre & Kim in San Francisco, told Bloomberg BNA told that Jersey law doesn’t allow for class action lawsuits, but Bentham IMF’s funding will help affected plaintiffs join together and get some of the advantages of a class action, such as pooled resources and having multiple plaintiffs’ claims heard at once.
Litigation funding firms finance lawsuits and usually receive in return a portion of any award or settlement. According to the press release, plaintiffs in the proposed Jersey suit won’t pay any fees unless their claim is successfully resolved, and only from awards from the litigation.
Unlike a class action, where there’s usually just one or two named plaintiffs representing a defined class of passive unnamed claimants, every plaintiff in the potential Jersey lawsuit will be named as a participant. In a class action, parties that fit the class definition are part of the case unless they opt out, but in the Jersey suit, a party must affirmatively agree to join the case.
The proposed settlement in the Virginia lawsuit covers a class of plaintiffs that renewed 40 or less foreign patents a year through CPA from 2012-16, and one year where it renewed 20 or less. Ng says that, according to Kobre & Kim’s research, many of CPA’s clients in the U.S. don’t fit the class definition in the Virginia lawsuit, and so are potential plaintiffs for the Jersey action.
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