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Winner: California Litigators Selected as Tech Industry Litigation Department of the Year

November 10, 2023
The Recorder
As part of The Recorder’s annual California Legal Awards, Latham earned the top litigation prize for scoring impactful victories for technology innovators across geographies, practice areas, and specialties.

The California litigation team of Latham & Watkins was named Winner of The Recorder’s Tech Industry Litigation Department of the Year contest. Each year, The Recorder seeks out and honors California law firms and legal departments “that are instrumental to the state's thriving technology sector.”

Illustrative victories from the past year include two trial wins regarding Oracle — one from each side of the “v.” Latham litigators defended Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Safra Catz against claims that they breached fiduciary duties by causing Oracle to overpay for NetSuite, a company that Mr. Ellison co-founded, by US$3+ billion. During a 10-day trial, Latham demonstrated that Mr. Ellison did not control Oracle, that he fully recused himself from the transaction, that the acquisition was negotiated by an independent and well-functioning special committee, which relied on advice from its own top-notch advisors, and that Ms. Catz worked tirelessly and effectively to ensure that Oracle paid “the lowest price possible” for NetSuite. The court thus found that the deal was subject to “business judgment review” — rather than “entire fairness review” as urged by plaintiffs — and entered judgment in favor of Mr. Ellison and Ms. Catz. The Latham team was named winners of Am Law’s Litigators of the Week award for the victory.

A different trial team represented Oracle, this time as plaintiff, in a federal copyright dispute that earned Am Law Litigators of the Week: Runner Up honors. The culmination of a nearly decade-long dispute, the jury ultimately found for Oracle and awarded damages, though importantly, the verdict reinforced the protections copyright law provides to software developers.

Latham’s teams turned in stellar results in a number of business-critical disputes for Peloton in courts across the US and around the world. Such matters include the definitive defeat of class certification of a federal consumer class action alleging false advertising and deceptive business practices; victories in multiple patent and false advertising cases and claims brought against Peloton; the early dismissal of a consumer sales tax class action in New York federal court; and a favorable global resolution of numerous cases pending across jurisdictions, including complex antitrust and unfair competition claims related to Peloton’s leaderboard technology.

The Recorder also honored Latham’s California litigators for the team’s successes at the forefront of cutting-edge data privacy litigation. The firm is effectively writing the California Invasion of Privacy Act (CIPA) defense playbook, decisively beating back attempts by the plaintiffs’ bar to significantly expand liability and expose a wide variety of companies to billions of dollars in potential statutory damages. For example, Latham knocked out a novel privacy claim that could have substantially expanded the scope of liability under CIPA in a key, first-round dismissal, with prejudice, for Otonomo Inc., a car data services platform that leverages vehicle and mobility data from vehicles’ factory-installed GPS systems to provide transportation insights to its customers. This success also earned inclusion in Am Law’s Litigators of the Week column.

Speaking to The Recorder, Global Chair of Latham’s Litigation & Trial Department, Michele Johnson, shared what makes the firm a standout: “Our unmatched breadth is our strength. Rather than excelling with a few strong subject matters or top trial stars, Latham’s California litigation department features practices across the board that could be elite law firms in their own right. Within each case as well, our breadth of experience means clients benefit from a combination of trial-ready litigators, appellate-writing masters, and subject-matter pros — with broader support provided from our award-winning tax, corporate, and restructuring practices when needed.”

Another key to Latham’s success representing technology companies in their most complex disputes relates to the firm’s ability to see around corners for clients. Discussing the impact early-stage generative AI applications like ChatGPT and others are poised to make on virtually every industry, Johnson explained: “Having seen this wave coming, Latham invested early, stacking our deck with the world’s most well-regarded and creative strategists who are deeply familiar with the full scope of risks companies face with the development and use of AI, and who have developed practical, business-oriented solutions to mitigate those risks. And should our clients find themselves facing litigation or regulatory scrutiny, Latham has an unmatched, multidisciplinary team of zealous advocates who know how to win cases and effectively short cut and end investigations.”

Detailed here, Latham earned several additional California Legal Awards honors.