Robert Van Nest’s decade-long battle defending Google LLC against a copyright and patent infringement lawsuit by Oracle Corp. will come to a close next week at the U.S. Supreme Court.
He persuaded two federal juries in San Francisco that the Alphabet Inc.-owned company did not infringe Oracle’s copyrights and patents on its Java application programming interface packages. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed those decisions twice, sending the closely-watched battle between two technology titans to the high court.
“What I’ve learned is you’ve got to keep fighting all the way,” said Van Nest, who argued for Google in trial and before the Federal Circuit but will defer to appellate specialist Thomas C. Goldstein of Goldstein & Russell P.C. for the Supreme Court oral argument. Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc., 18-956 (S. Ct., cert petition filed Oct. 19, 2018).
Earlier this month, Van Nest — working with a Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP team led by him and Rachael E. Meny — won a major victory for Google subsidiary Waymo LLC.
San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Ethan P. Schulman affirmed an arbitration ruling against its former engineer, Anthony S. Levandowski, for breach of duty and breach of his employment agreement for creating a self-driving car business while working at Google.
Levandowski offered his new business to its biggest competitor, Uber Technologies Inc., and brought over a bunch of Google employees as well, Van Nest said. Google LLC v. Levandowski et al., CPF-20-516982 (San Francisco Co. Sup. Ct., filed Jan. 9, 2020). Lior Ron was a co-defendant in the case.
The task of proving damages when California law encourages employee movement “made this a much more challenging case,” Van Nest said. “The problem isn’t that he quit. It’s that he created a separate, secret, standalone business” while at Google.
Schulman agreed with the JAMS arbitration panel, which awarded Levandowski to pay $127.3 million in disgorgement and restitution along with interest, attorney fees and legal costs adding up to $179 million. Levandowski filed for bankruptcy after the ruling. He also faces criminal charges of trade secrets misappropriation for allegedly stealing information from Google.
In 2019, Van Nest represented Qualcomm Inc. in two cases, one against the Federal Trade Commission and a second one from a class of cellphone users who accused the company of inflating cellphone prices. Both are on appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh of San Jose granted an injunction that would force Qualcomm to license rival chip suppliers at fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates. Federal Trade Commission v. Qualcomm Inc., 17-CV00220 (N.D. Cal., filed Jan. 17, 2017).
Van Nest helped persuade a 9th Circuit panel to stay the injunction. Last month, an appellate panel heard arguments on the company’s appeal.