Seed Co. Ltd. v. Westerman, No. 14-7126 (D.C. Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Seed Company Limited, a Japanese company, is led by Shigeru Tamai. Tamai invented a dispenser of correctional tape enabling users to correct printed documents by rolling white tape over errors. Seed and Tamai applied for patents but the application was denied because of legal counsel’s noncompliance with Patent Office regulations when filing a motion related to the application. As a result of the error, another inventor obtained the patent for the same invention. Seed and Tamai filed a legal malpractice suit against counsel. The district court subsequently granted summary judgment for defendants. The court concluded that the statute of limitations had elapsed with respect to the malpractice claims against one group of defendants - those who ceased working on behalf of Seed and Tamai when the law firm engaged in the representation split into two firms. With regard to the remaining defendants - those who continued to represent Seed and Tamai after the breakup of the firm - the court found that the statute of limitations poses no bar to the malpractice action. On the merits of the claims against those defendants, the court concluded that there is a genuine dispute of material fact about whether the alleged error is one of professional judgment, and whether defendants exercised reasonable care in making the judgment. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded as to this issue.