HTC suit heats up again, Apple replaces lead patent attorney, Samsung tries to replace the rest

There have been a few interesting developments lately in Apple's ongoing patent disputes with HTC and Samsung, and a switch up inside their own legal team. First, Reuters reports that Richard "Chip" Lutton Junior, the man who was responsible for managing Apple's patent portfolio, is no longer with the company. Now, BJ Watrous, former deputy council for HP, is lists himself as the new guardian of iPhone, iPad, and Mac IP.

Lutton's voicemail was still set up at Apple on Monday, but he will be leaving Apple soon, perhaps in the next month, said the source familiar with the situation. Watrous was deputy general counsel at Hewlett-Packard in charge of IP licensing. An HP spokesman declined to comment. Apple's intellectual property team has been on a hiring spree lately, snapping up litigation specialist Noreen Krall from Sun Microsystems.

Meanwhile Samsung, whom Apple has sued for being a "copyist", thinks just one lawyer leaving isn't enough and, according to FOSS Patents now wants Apple's external lawyers disqualified over purported conflicts of interest.

Samsung's motion is 20 pages long. The gist of it is that Samsung wants the recently-founded law firm of Bridges & Mavrakakis barred from the case because at least five of its lawyers -- including one of its founders, Kenneth Bridges -- previously represented Samsung while they were with another firm, Kirkland & Ellis. Samsung then goes on to argue that this fact "taints all attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis through imputation". But not enough: Samsung additionally demands that Apple's two other law firms involved with this federal lawsuit (Morrison & Foerster and Wilmer Hale) "provide affidavits confirming they have not received any Samsung confidential information from attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis" while those firms were coordinating Apple's representation so far or, absent such assurance, be disqualified as well.

Apple's outside counsel, of course, deny any such conflict.

Lastly, a couple more salvos have been fired in the ongoing Apple vs. HTC dispute, with Apple filing a asking the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban imports of HTC devices... again. The devices targeted this time are the HTC Droid Incredible, Droid Incredible 2, Wildfire, T-Mobile mytouch 3G, T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide, T-Mobile G1, T-Mobile G2, Evo 4G, Aria, Desire, Hero, Merge, Inspire 4G, Evo 4G, Thunderbolt, Thunderbolt 4G, and the HTC Flyer tablet. Apple's goal might be to get those new devices into litigation, and bring new patent infringement charges along with them. HTC was nonplussed.

"HTC is disappointed at Apple's constant attempts at litigations instead of competing fairly in the market," said HTC general counsel Grace Lei in a statement. "HTC strongly denies all infringement claims raised by Apple in the past and present and reiterates our determination and commitment to protect our intellectual property right."

For more on all of this, check out our special edition iPhone Live podcast from Saturday, World War Patents with guest Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents.

(And yes, I still think Judge Judy should be given juris-her-diction over all Apple and Android patent lawsuits. For our sake.)

[Reuters, FOSS Patents, AFP]