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Oprah Winfrey’s production company wants a federal judge to force a prominent Boston law firm to provide information about one of its former attorneys to bolster its case in a patent-infringement lawsuit against her book club.

The lawsuit poses serious threats to the entire publishing industry, according to Harpo Productions attorney Charles Babcock.

Winfrey’s Harpo filed a motion last week to compel Fish & Richardson to hand over documents and give a deposition regarding Scott Harris, a former patent prosecution attorney in its San Diego office.

Harpo is being sued by Illinois Computer Research, a Chicago holding company that bought Harris’ 2006 patent for Internet technology that allows readers to review digital excerpts from books prior to buying them. Harpo claims the patent is unenforceable. The case is set for a July trial in Illinois.

Harpo wants Fish to comply with a subpoena, because it was party to a similar patent lawsuit that ICR filed against Google, then a Fish client, in 2007.

ICR, which is tied to Harris, added Fish as a defendant in that lawsuit after Fish forced Harris’ resignation several days following its filing.

In court documents, Fish claimed Harris used Fish resources to build a portfolio of patents and cash in on them by selling them to parties that he knew would file infringement cases against companies that included his own law firm’s clients. The suit was settled in 2008.



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