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Tuesday, July 12, 2011, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Samsung argues some of Apple's legal team should be disqualified

In its ongoing legal battle with Apple, Samsung has asked a court to disqualify at least some of Apple's legal team, alleging a conflict of interest.

The latest twist was revealed in a new 20-page motion filed by Samsung and discovered by Florian Mueller at FOSS Patents. In it, Samsung asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to disqualify some, or potentially all, of Apple's legal team due to an alleged conflict of interest.

"The gist of it is that Samsung wants the recently-founded law firm of Bridges & Mavrakakis barred from the case because at least five of its lawyers — including one of its founders, Kenneth Bridges — previously represented Samsung while they were with another firm, Kirkland & Ellis," Mueller wrote.

"Samsung then goes on to argue that this fact 'taints all attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis through imputation.'"

The filing then goes on to demand that the two other firms involved with the suit — Morrison & Foerester and Wilmer Hale — provide affidavits confirming they have not received "confidential information" about Samsung from the other attorneys at Bridges & Mavrakakis.

Apple's attorneys reportedly believe that there is no conflict of interest because their prior representation with Samsung was not "substantially related" to the current conflict, in which Apple has accused Samsung of copying the look and feel of devices like the iPhone and iPad. The attorneys said that any confidential information from their previous arrangement will not play a part in the current conflict with Apple

"Samsung, however, argues that the relevant legal criterion is not whether they intended to use that information but whether they have obtained it in the first place," Mueller wrote. He added in his analysis that it's possible "someone might have made an error in judgment somewhere."

The latest development in the ongoing legal battle comes as Apple's chief patent lawyer is set to leave the company within the next month. Though both stories broke on Tuesday, there is no indication that they are in any way related.

Richard "Chip" Lutton Jr. is expected to leave Apple soon as chief patent counsel and vice president. He has been replaced in that role by B.J. Watrous, former deputy general counsel at Hewlett Packard.

While Samsung is now using corporate secrets for its defense, Apple has touted its own secrecy in previous filings made in the ongoing dispute.

Apple requested in court to see prototypes of Samsung's forthcoming, already-announced hardware, and Samsung responded in kind, asking the court to see Apple's next-generation iPhone and iPad. But Apple noted that the products it requested to see — including a Samsung Galaxy S II — have already been announced, while its own future products are shrouded in secrecy until they are publicly announced.