Washington DC lobbying giant Akin Gump and small Californian legal technology vendor Xcential have entered litigation, with each accusing the other of misappropriating trade secrets, stemming from an idea for technology that automates certain aspects of US federal bill drafting.
Akin Gump brought a claim for damages against Xcential in October, alleging that the California-headquartered company had taken a concept introduced to it under NDA by counsel Louis Agnello and incorporated the concept into its existing LegisPro software.
The idea, Akin Gump says in its claim, would take proposed redline changes to an existing law and use those changes to generate a draft bill in the format suitable for submission to Congress, making bill drafting faster, more accurate and less expensive.
Akin Gump says that Agnello, who formerly worked in Congress, explained his idea in detail to Xcential so they could draft the code to prototype the bill-drafting software, with the initial prototype referred to as the “K-Street parade” project.
Akin alleges that after many conversations and demonstrations, Xcential did not deliver a prototype, but that CEO and founder Grant Vergottini filed his own patent application, renaming it ‘Bill Synthesis.’ It claims damages from misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment and replevin, which enables a person to recover goods taken wrongfully.
However, Xcential has now denied the claims and filed a counterclaim against Akin Gump, claiming breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, misappropriation of confidential information, breach of implied contract and slander of title. Xcential claims that it built a prototype for Akin Gump based on two key Xcential technologies, and that Akin Gump is prohibited under an end user license agreement from using Xcential’s software for any production or commercial purposes and that any copies, derivative works or trade secrets were the exclusive property of Xcential.
In a statement yesterday (28 November), Vergottini said: “Only Xcential has created software that functions as described in the patent application for Bill Synthesis. We will not be intimidated into surrendering our know-how and intellectual property to a giant law firm like Akin Gump. This litigation should be a warning to all innovative legal technology providers.”
Akin Gump said: “In accordance with the Court’s timetable, we will be replying to the counterclaims, which are frivolous, and we will continue to vigorously pursue our claims against the defendant for its misappropriation and contractual breaches.”
The case is taking place in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Xcential is being represented by Holland & Knight.
You can access the claim and counterclaim papers here, see below: