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Greenbelt firm asks judge to dismiss $350 million copyright lawsuit

Greenbelt-based law firm Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. has moved to dismiss a $350 million copyright infringement and trade secrets lawsuit filed against the firm last month.

The lawsuit, filed April 3 by a Maryland computer programming company, alleged that one of the law firm’s attorneys stole a copyrighted software program for a travel management system used by the federal government and then illegally distributed copies of it.

In the motion to dismiss, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, the firm claims the company, Aldmyr Systems Inc., has no grounds to sue for three reasons: Aldmyr’s CEO, not the company itself, held the copyright to the program; the use of copyrighted material in litigation constitutes “fair use”; and the allegedly stolen materials did not qualify as trade secrets.

The motion also urges the U.S. District Court to decline to exercise jurisdiction over the case, alleging the claims are “inextricably intertwined” with a state court divorce action involving George Bailey, the owner and CEO of Aldmyr. A similar lawsuit brought by Bailey was dismissed in December because the complaint failed to establish jurisdiction in federal court.

In the current lawsuit, Aldmyr claims the law firm used its possession of the computer program as a “bargaining chip” in divorce negotiations between Bailey and his wife, who is represented by Joseph, Greenwald & Laake attorney Stephen A. Friedman, also a defendant in the suit.

The firm denied this, replying that Bailey had abandoned the supposedly stolen documents in his former home and was then provided the documents in discovery during the divorce case.

“It cannot be said that the copyright laws were meant to protect a copyright owner who leaves his work behind in his wife’s house and who then receives it back in discovery in a domestic relations case,” the motion to dismiss states.

The lawsuit also details what it says would be the detrimental effect the alleged theft and copying of the software program would have on the program’s market value. Because of the law firm’s actions, the company claimed, the program could no longer be considered secure and would likely lose the federal government as a client. The law firm strongly disputed these claims in the motion to dismiss.

“Before this, and the prior, litigation, there could have been no possible devaluing of the copyrighted material or potential economic harm,” the motion states. “It was the filing of those public lawsuits (which were not filed under seal) that, if anything, have risked the potential for the government to discover that Mr. Bailey’s systems are not secret and have not been kept secure, as the Plaintiffs complain.”

James P. Chandler, the attorney representing Aldmyr Systems, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment on the motion on Friday. Chandler is with The Chandler Law Firm in Washington, D.C.

Joseph, Greenwald & Laake is represented by Daniel R. Hodges and Shirlie Lake of Eccleston & Wolf P.C. in Hanover. Hodges and Lake were not immediately available for comment.

The case is Aldmyr Systems Inc. v. Stephen Friedman et al., 8:15-CV-00864-PJM.

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.