Video-game developers entitled to attorney-client privilege with PR company amid copyright lawsuit, court rules

By Charmaine Little | Dec 5, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO — Video game developers hoping to create a sequel to another company's video-game series have been allowed to keep their communications with lawyers and public relations team confidential.

Stardock Systems, Inc. sued Paul Reiche III and Robert Frederick Ford over the defendants' plans to create a sequel to its Star Control: Origins and Star Control II games.

Both parties submitted a Joint Discovery Letter Brief in October, but the defendants and a third-party PR firm, Singer Associates, withheld 61 documents citing attorney-client privilege.

Stardock attempted to order a subpoena to have the documents released, but the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sided with the defendants and quashed the subpoena in a ruling released by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore on Nov. 30.

The court said that the subpoena would be in violation of attorney-client privilege and that the defendants were protected under the work-product doctrine.

It was the defendants’ legal team that brought on Singer to provide PR strategy during the litigation, so the attorney-client privilege policy applied, the court ruling said.

The requested communications included draft answers in response to media inquiries and Stardock’s claims.

“As can be seen by the privilege log, documents such as a ‘draft answer and counterclaim’ and a ‘draft press release’ would contain ‘the mental impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal theories of a party’s attorney or other representative concerning the litigation,” the court determined in siding with the defendants on the work-product doctrine.

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