The legal problems and challenges presented by software, hardware, e-commerce, social media and the Internet have long engaged Rick Sanders’ interest. Rick’s first two cases, as he began his career in Silicon Valley, involved the business and technology of making music available over the Internet. Rick has been hooked on intellectual property, and especially the Internet, ever since.
Internet law (or “cyberlaw” as it was more commonly known) was once regarded as a trendy distraction from more important matters. Today, it is an essential part of nearly every company’s legal strategy. The legal areas it touches upon–copyright, trademark, patent, privacy and defamation–are notoriously complex. When combined with the rapidly evolving nature of on-line business, the applicable law cannot hope to cope with the new terrains and challenges being constantly produced by the free-wheeling and nearly ungovernable Internet.
Despite these conditions, Rick will present you with common-sense strategies to achieve your business objectives. There are few silver bullets in IP and Internet law, and one rarely sees the same problem twice. But with custom-tailored strategies, combining legal, business and technological tools, Rick will help you overcome the challenges and grasp the opportunities presented by the Internet and intellectual property. In 2011, Rick was named an “America’s Best Lawyer” for intellectual-property litigation.
For example, a shareholder representative once presented Rick with a particularly vexing problem. The shareholders of an acquired software firm were due to receive the balance of the purchase price, but the acquirer was withholding the funds because one of their customers, which happened to be a governmental entity, was being sued for patent infringement for using the firm’s software. The customer and the acquiring firm both refused to provide any assistance, but rather expected the shareholder representative to resolve the problem somehow. Meanwhile, the shareholders were being denied access to funds they had legitimately been expecting. Rick used a freedom-of-information request to obtain key information the customer was withholding, then used that information to prove to the patentee that software did not infringe on the patent. The deal he struck with the patentee gave the acquiring company enough comfort that the lawsuit would not simply be repeated so that the acquiring company consented to the release of the shareholders’ funds.
To take another example, two principals of a local company were sued for trying to recover their company’s information from a third-party provider of remote storage services, where a former employee had placed it. The former employee sued on several grounds, including the Stored Communications Act, saying that his privacy had been invaded because his and his family’s private information was also stored there. With the help of a forensic computer examiner, Rick was able to show the court that things were not as the former employee had alleged. He showed further that the Stored Communications Act was not intended to cover the actions of which the former employee complained. As a result, the court dismissed all of the claims against Rick’s clients on summary judgment.
When a Nashville health-care firm’s attempt to obtain two federal trademark registrations turned suddenly into a motion for a temporary restraining order in the courts for a state known for its “home cooking,” Rick swiftly located a politically-connected trial lawyer in that state. Combining Rick’s knowledge of trademark law and TTAB procedure with the local trial lawyer’s intimate knowledge of local practice and personalities, the team was able to force the plaintiff to settle for a fraction of even what the client had offered at the start of the dispute—plus the two trademark registrations.
Although Rick enjoys all forms of intellectual property, copyright law has always engaged him the most. For this reason, Rick was instrumental in bringing the U.S. Copyright Office’s “traveling show” to Nashville for the first time in 2005. He has been co-producing “The Copyright Office Comes to Music City,” hosted by the First Amendment Center, ever since. Among other things, Rick puts together panels of local and nationally-known industry representatives and scholars to discuss such hot-button issues as the payment of broadcasting royalties to artists, strategies for responding to digital piracy, and the complexity of copyright termination rights.
Rick is also a national authority on anonymous speech on the Internet, having presented twice at the ABA Annual Conference on the subject. The subject appeals to Rick because it combines three issues near to his heart: free expression, the Internet, and civil procedure. He has also recently contributed a chapter on the Stored Communications Act to the 2011 edition of Aspatore Books’ Inside the Minds: Understanding Developments in Cyberspace Law.
Rick’s interest in technology does not stop with substantive law. Because of this practice in Silicon Valley, he has been handling electronic discovery and the problems presented by electronically stored information in litigation for nearly 10 years. As early as 2005, he was helping clients understand and meet the challenges posed by “e-discovery,” as evidenced by his March 23, 2005, client bulletin on the subject. He was commenting on proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure years before their adoption.
Rick also enjoys William Shakespeare. In a previous career, he even used to teach the Bard. He is an active member of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and presents at several Shakespeare-themed CLE programs, such as Much Ado About Ethics (with Don Capparella and Ed Lanquist), and Who Wrote Shakespeare? mock trial and appeal (with Mr. Capparella and Woody Woodruff), where he played the putative “expert.” Mr. Sanders would like it to be known that the correct answer to the question, “Who Wrote Shakespeare?” is “William Shakespeare,” and anyone who says otherwise is itching for a fight.
Here are some other things you might like to know about Rick:
- J.D., Vanderbilt University, 2000
Member, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, 1999-2000
- M.A., University of Michigan, 1992
- A.B., summa cum laude, University of California, Berkeley, 1990
Selected Honors and Awards
- Best Lawyers in America, intellectual property litigation, 2011
Selected Publications and Presentations
- E-Discovery & Inevitable Litigation, Martindale
- Patent Licensees Have Standing to Challenge the Validity of a Licensed Patent, IPFrontline (registration required)
- Simple Corporate Merger Yields Copyright Violation, Lexology (registration required)
- Consequences of Ownership or Licensing Project Drawings: If You Pay for it, Do You Own It? Construction Lawyer (Summer 2009)
- Legal Strategies for Dealing with Anonymous Internet Infringers (with Erick Howard and Thad Chaloemtiarana), 2010 ABA Annual Conference, San Francisco
- Will Consumers Ever Get What They Want from Online Music Services? How Copyright Law Enables and Impedes Five Types of Online Music Services, JDCLE
- “Introduction to the Internet” and “Constitutional Issues,” Internet and the Law, Dec. 30, 2011, Nashville School of Law
- “Cloud Computing and Privacy Issues,” Scary Things in Intellectual Property, Apr. 13, 2012, TennBarU, Tennessee Bar Center
- Associate, Fenwick & West, Mountain View, California, 2000–2003
- Partner, Waller, Lansden, Dortch & Davis, Nashville, Tennessee, 2004–2011
- Lecturer, Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan, 1994–1997
- Chair, Intellectual Property Section, Nashville Bar Association, 2008
- Treasurer, Federal Bar Association—Nashville Chapter, 2007–2011
- Member, Nashville, Tennessee, California and American Bar Associations
- Member, Intellectual Property Sections of Nashville, California and American Bar Associations
- United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth and Ninth Circuits
- United States District Courts for the Central, Eastern, Northern and Southern Districts of California
- United States District Courts for the Eastern, Middle and Western Districts of Tennessee