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LG Corporation v. Xiaowen

United States District Court, S.D. California

September 5, 2017

LG CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs,



         Presently before the Court are Plaintiffs LG Corporation's, LG Electronics, Inc.'s, and LG Electronics Mobilecomm U.S.A., Inc.'s (collectively, “LG”) Motion for Attorneys' Fees (“Fee Mot., ” ECF No. 136), as well as their Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Their Motion for Attorneys' Fees, (“Fee Mot. Suppl. Mem., ” ECF No. 147). The Court vacated the hearing on the motion and took the matter under submission without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). (ECF No. 144.) After considering LG's arguments and the law, the Court GRANTS LG's Motion for Attorneys' Fees.


         On February 7, 2017, the Court granted LG's Motion for Default Judgment against several Defendants (collectively, “Defaulting Defendants”). (“Amended D.J. Order, ” ECF No. 127.) The Court also awarded Plaintiffs reasonable attorneys' fees and costs, and invited LG to submit evidence of their attorneys' fees. (Id. at 25.[1]) LG timely filed their Motion for Attorneys' Fees, which the Court now considers.


         The Lanham Act provides that in “exceptional cases” the court “may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party.” 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a).[2] “To determine what fee should be awarded, the court must first determine the ‘lodestar, ' which is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 406 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983) (“The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.”). There is a “strong presumption” that the lodestar represents the reasonable fee. City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992). “Next, in appropriate cases, the district court may adjust the ‘presumptively reasonable' lodestar figure based upon the factors listed in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975) (Kerr), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 951, 96 S.Ct. 1726, 48 L.Ed.2d 195 (1976), that have not been subsumed in the lodestar calculation.” Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Int'l, Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir. 1993).[3] “The lodestar amount presumably reflects the novelty and complexity of the issues, the special skill and experience of counsel, the quality of representation, and the results obtained from the litigation.” Id.


         LG seek a total of $383, 134.35[4] in attorneys' fees apportioned per Defaulting Defendant. The Court will now consider the reasonableness of the hourly rates and the hours expended.

         I. Reasonableness of Rate

         “To inform and assist the court in the exercise of its discretion, the burden is on the fee applicant to produce satisfactory evidence-in addition to the attorney's own affidavits-that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and reputation. Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (1984). “The relevant community is that in which the district court sits.” Weeks v. Kellogg Co., 2013 WL 6531177, No. CV 0908102(MMM) (RZx), at *32 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 23, 2013) (citing Schwarz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 73 F.3d 895, 906 (9th Cir. 1995)). “In establishing the reasonable hourly rate, the court may take into account: (1) the novelty and complexity of the issues; (2) the special skill and experience of counsel; (3) the quality of representation; and (4) the results obtained.” Kilopass Tech., Inc. v. Sidense Corp., 82 F.Supp.3d 1154, 1170 (N.D. Cal. 2015).

         The billing rates for Finnegan attorneys and summer associates working on this case ranged from $130 to $890, depending on the individual's experience. (Decl. of Mark Sommers in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. for Att'ys' Fees (“Sommers Decl.”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 136-2.) Mr. Sommers, the lead counsel for LG since the inception of this case, was the only attorney charging $850 to $890 per hour, (id. ¶¶ 2-3), and LG further notes that Finnegan partners billed an average of $695 per hour, (Fee Mot. Suppl. Mem. 3). The billing rate for Finnegan paralegals ranged from $210 to $350, depending on the individual's level of experience and responsibilities. (Id. ¶ 12.) In support of these rates LG cites market reports detailing the prevailing rates for intellectual property attorneys in San Diego and cases from this district discussing and finding reasonable similar rates. For the reasons outlined below, this evidence persuades the Court that these hourly rates are reasonable. See United Steelworkers, 896 F.2d at 407 (“Affidavits of the plaintiffs' attorney and other attorneys regarding prevailing fees in the community, and rate determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a rate for the plaintiffs' attorney, are satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate.”).

         The Court finds these rates reasonable for a number of reasons. For one, Finnegan is an international intellectual property firm with numerous accolades for its intellectual property work. (Sommers Decl. ¶ 17 (collecting awards).) In addition, courts recognize that intellectual property work requires specialized knowledge. See, e.g., Yufa v. TSI Inc., No. 09-cv-01315-KAW, 2014 WL 4071902, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2014). Moreover, LG obtained favorable results in this case, including a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, and statutory damages of over $168, 000, 000 spread out over the Defaulting Defendants. (See generally Amended D.J. Order.)

         Furthermore, Finnegan's hourly rates are in line with other cases in this district approving similar fee requests by peer law firms. See, e.g., Zest IP Holdings, LLC v. Implant Direct Mfg., LLC, No. 10-CV-0541-GPC WVG, 2014 WL 6851612, at *5 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2014) (finding rates reasonable where plaintiffs sought “an hourly rate of between $170 per hour and $895 per hour depending on the particular attorney or paralegal” for work by a “multi-state/national law firm”). As for partner billing rates, Finnegan's rates appear to be within the median range of billing rates in 2015 for intellectual property suits in San Diego. See Flowrider Surf, Ltd. v. Pac. Surf Designs, Inc., No. 15CV1879-BEN (BLM), 2017 WL 2212029, at *3 (S.D. Cal. May 18, 2017) (citing a publication noting that the 2015 median billing rates for intellectual property partners in San Diego was between $585.04 and $727.50). Although Mr. Sommers' rate of $783 is higher than this range, the Court finds that it is nevertheless reasonable because it falls within the range of rates charged by intellectual property partners of similar experience (which is $331-$870), (Fee Mot. Suppl. Mem. 3 (citing AIPLA 2015 Report of the Economic Survey (“AIPLA Survey”) I-25)), and is less than the lead counsel rate previously approved in Zest. See Zest, 2014 WL 6851612, at *5 (finding reasonable an hourly rate of $850-$895 for the plaintiffs' lead counsel). Thus, the Court finds reasonable the rates charged by Finnegan partners in this case.

         The associate billing rates are also reasonable. Finnegan associates billed between $370 and $488, for an average of $415. (Fee Mot. Suppl. Reply 4.) This average is within $2 of the median billing rate in 2015 for intellectual property associates in San Diego, (id. (citing Flowrider Surf, 2017 WL 2212029, at *3 (noting that the average was $413.80)), and in some cases is lower than the rates approved by other courts in this district, (id. at 4- 5 (citing Zest, 2014 WL 6851612, at *5-6)). LG notes that only one of its associate's rate of $444 falls outside the AIPLA Survey range. (Id. at 5.) The Court nevertheless finds this departure reasonable given that it is a small departure and that the Zest Court found reasonable a $565 hourly rate for an associate with similar experience. Zest, 2014 WL 6851612, at *5. Thus, the Court finds reasonable the rates charged by the Finnegan associates in this case. (See also Fee Mot. Suppl. Mem. 5-6 ...

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