Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dueling Lawyer/Columnists in Copyright Infringement Suit Over 'How-to' Articles

List of United States federal courthouses in TexasImage via WikipediaIn Flannery v. Poll (1:2011cv00646) filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, attorney William J. Flannery, whose WJF Institute advises lawyers on building a practice, sued California attorney Edward Poll for copyright infringement and unfair competition, alleging the defendant reprinted his articles without permission, according to a report by Courthouse News Service (CNS).

Flannery published Client Development and Relationship Management (1994), which included articles he wrote entitled "20 Questions You Should Ask Current and Prospective Clients" and "It's the Client Stupid," the CNS article noted. In his complaint, Flannery alleges he gave the American Bar Association license to reprint "It's the Client Stupid" in 2000 for an ABA publication edited by Poll.

The plaintiff claims the National Law Journal (NLJ) published a "substantially identical version" of the article in May 2002, identifying Poll as the author. Flannery claimed the NLJ agreed to reprint issues identifying him as the author after he complained and that Poll allegedly wrote him, saying the NLJ piece was his adaptation of Flannery's article and apologizing for not crediting Flannery, though claiming that he, not the ABA, received reprint permission from the plaintiff in 2000.

Flannery alleges in his complaint that the defendant has since twice reproduced the article on his Website and in the ABA online publication Law Practice Today still listing himself as the author and that Poll allegedly included a "substantially identical version" of Flannery's "20 Questions" article in a book Poll wrote entitled Attorney & Law Firm Guide to the Business of Law: Planning and Operating for Survival and Growth.

Besides damages, Flannery is seeking an injunction preventing Poll from using his articles. (Disclosure: "TUOL"'s dedicated scribe worked as an editor for the ABA years ago, during which time Attorney Poll served on the volunteer editorial board of a family law journal edited by "TUOL.")

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