San Francisco, April 7, 2011 -- When Hollywood's largest movie studios launched a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against Silicon Valley DVD-streaming startup Zediva earlier this week, it looked as they would likely squash the company like a bug.
But the five-person startup has retained a legal giant to defend itself: Mark Lemley is a professor at Stanford Law School and a litigator at Durie Tangri, a powerhouse boutique firm in San Francisco that specializes in intellectual property. Lemley is widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential and creative legal thinkers in this realm. His clients have included Google and Netflix.
If the studios' lawsuit against Zediva gets legs and isn't dismissed, this turn of events could mean that it may become a landmark case that could change the business of delivering movies over the internet.
Asked for more details, Lemley declined through e-mail to comment further on the case.
Several legal observers have said that Zediva is likely relying on a 2008 Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding Cartoon Network v. CSC Holdings to argue that its fledgling DVD-streaming service is legal.
But in a FAQ sent out to reporters on Monday, the Motion Picture Association said that it "strongly disagree[s]," and that "The Cablevision case involved a different service and factual scenario, and does not apply to the facts of this case."
It'll be interesting to see what Lemley argues.
The law prof has published 109 articles and seven books on intellectual property and antitrust matters, according to The American Lawyer, which listed Lemley as one of the top 25 most influential people in intellectual property law in 2010.
Another interesting factoid: The American Lawyer cited research that found that out of 19 million pages of legal treatises, Lemley has been cited more times than U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis.
Though Lemley may be more of an academic than a litigator, he is surrounded by a superstar team of litigators at Durie Tangri, although it's not clear whether Zediva has retained just him, or the firm.