Sean primarily litigates important patent disputes and other high-tech matters.
Sean obtained a J.D. (Order of the Coif, 1992) and an M.B.A. (Beta Gamma Sigma, 1992) from the University of Southern California after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles. Sean designed electromagnetic bearings at engineering start-up—Aura Systems. Prior to partnering with Greg Dovel, Sean worked at Kaye Scholer litigating entertainment, environmental, and intellectual property matters. Sean is also a member of the Patent Bar.
In addition to his litigation practice, Sean is the founder and manager of Visual Victory, a trial-consulting firm that conducts mock trials, prepares cross-examination strategies, and creates multimedia presentations for trial and mediation using state-of-the-art technology. Visual Victory’s clients include many of the country’s most prominent law firms, including O’Melveny & Myers; Irell & Manella; Paul Hastings; Howard Rice (now merged with Arnold & Porter); Greenberg Traurig; Winston & Strawn; and Greene, Broillet & Wheeler.
Sean taught Persuasion as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California Law Center for twelve years.
- University of Southern California, (J.D., Order of the Coif, 1992)
- University of Southern California, (M.B.A., Beta Gamma Sigma, 1992)
- University of California, Los Angeles, Mechanical Engineering (B.S., 1988)
- Aura Systems – prototype engineer
- Kaye Scholer
Networking giant felled. On behalf of Network-1 Technologies, a small NYSE listed company, our firm sued Cisco Systems and other large manufacturers of networking switches, Wi-Fi access points, and Internet phones that used Network-1’s patented Power over Ethernet technology. After defeating the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the case went to trial against seven defendants, led by Cisco. They selected a “dream team” of five top trial lawyers. But we presented a powerful case and obtained devastating admissions when cross-examining Cisco’s employees and experts. After the fourth day of trial, the defendants caved and entered license agreements with Network-1. The licenses required initial payments totaling about $32 million and ongoing royalty payments that have amounted to more than $120 million to date.
IPR Pioneer. Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony, and Avaya brought one of the earliest proceedings under the American Invents Act, challenging the validity of key claims of Network-1’s Power over Ethernet Patent. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board agreed with all of our arguments and found in our client’s favor. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Sean still has a perfect record at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.
Visual Voicemail. Judah Klausner is an American composer and inventor who developed the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and electronic organizer. In 1992, Judah invented Visual Voicemail, which allows users to selectively retrieve and listen to voicemails in any order. He pitched his innovation to the major telecommunications and phone companies—but his innovation was ahead of his time and it was not adopted. Fifteen years later, however, the industry caught up and all major cell phone and telecommunications companies began using Judah’s invention. Apple advertised his invention as “one of the greatest advancements in the history of mankind.” We represented Judah’s company, Klausner Technologies, in enforcing Judah’s “Visual Voicemail” patent portfolio. After obtaining a favorable order interpreting the claims, Sean successfully negotiated over forty-five deals.
Rocket science. Space Systems Loral and Lockheed Martin Corporation were in a litigation battle over technology used to control the movement of satellite positioning using rocket thrusters. Space System Loral had a patent for an improved method of maintaining the orientation of a satellite in space. We stepped in to represent Space Systems Loral in both the Northern District of California and at the Federal Circuit. We prevailed at the Federal Circuit and resolved the case.
Encryption technology. Researchers at two top academic institutions—MIT and Stanford— developed alternative encryption methods. The owners of these methods, RSA Data Security, Inc. and Cylink, were battling over who owned the rights to this technology. Sean represented RSA in a patent infringement action concerning software encryption technology that is the industry standard. Sean’s client held the rights to a group of patents developed by researchers at MIT, while the opposing party owned patents in the same field developed by programmers at Stanford University. The parties each claimed prior invention and counter-sued each other in a widely publicized dispute. The case was successfully settled.
Cyber-squatter. In the early days of the Web, a cyber-squatter set up domain names on the Internet using the names of prominent companies and then offered to sell the domain names to the companies. To stop this practice, Sean represented Panavision and asserted a novel trademark infringement action against the cyber-squatter. The defendant claimed that he had never set foot in California, did no business in California, and therefore the California court lacked personal jurisdiction to even hear the case. Sean successfully argued that the defendant’s Internet contacts with California were sufficient to satisfy due process. The court then ruled that the defendant was required to give the domain name to Sean’s client.
Arbitrating a forensic data dispute. ASR Data Acquisition, a forensic data recovery company, and Guidance Software entered a written license agreement to develop forensic software. The parties jointly marketed the program and split the profits on sales of the program pursuant to the contract. But when sales picked up, and the promise of greater financial rewards loomed, Guidance terminated the contract, renamed the product, and kept the profits for themselves. ASR hired our firm to enforce its intellectual property rights. The case went to arbitration where our client was awarded substantial damages, plus attorneys’ fees, and Guidance was enjoined from further sale of its competing product.
Sex tape success. Musician Bret Michaels (the lead singer of Poison) and his then girlfriend, Pamela Anderson, created a private home video. An early adult website obtained a copy of the video and advertised that it was going to show the video on its site, which dramatically increased its paid subscriptions. Sean obtained a permanent injunction preventing the website from displaying the video and negotiated a settlement resulting in a stipulated judgment of $4 million. The adult website went out of business, but Sean then brought suit to successfully pierce the corporate veil on an alter ego theory and reached the assets of its investors.
- Sean climbed Kilimanjaro—twice.
- Sean learned to play hockey on frozen lakes in Nova Scotia.
- Sean and his wife, Beth, met in property class at law school and have four children.
Starting Dovel & Luner
By 1995, I had positioned myself as an “indispensable” associate at a large prestigious AmLaw 100 firm. I had great relationships with my many very intelligent colleagues. The firm paid the highest associate salaries in the country. With my wife expecting our first child, continuing up the ladder at the large law firm was a natural path for me to follow.
But I wanted to take a different approach to litigation. With an MBA and a background working at a start-up engineering company, I wanted to practice law with economic incentives that aligned with my clients’ incentives. That motivated me to continuously improve my skills (time which could not be billed) rather than to continuously reinvent the wheel (time which could be billed).
I also wanted a firm that was entrepreneurial and innovative, and where thinking outside the box was rewarded rather than obstructed.
I clearly recall the tipping point. I was working with Greg (a partner at the BigLaw firm at the time) to prepare a business development presentation for several important representatives of a Fortune 100 company. This was an era before digital projectors or big flat big screens were available; so I asked firm management to authorize the purchase of a television set for $300 that we could use to deliver the presentations. They said no, because the $300 was not in their budget. Greg and I got in his car, went to an electronic superstore, and purchased our own TV to use for the presentation. Although I really liked my colleagues and the work I did at the firm, I realized that a big firm that was not invested in experimenting and had bureaucratic barriers was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my career.
About this time, Greg left to form his own firm; and I soon joined him.