On October 15, 2021, Judge Charles Ronald Norgle, of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, awarded Motorola Solutions, Inc., and Motorola Solutions Malaysia SDN (collectively “Motorola”) $34,244,385.50 in attorneys’ fees from defendant Hytera Communications Corporation Ltd. ( “Hytera”). Motorola prevailed over Hytera on its trade secret misappropriation and copyright infringement claims, with the jury awarding $760 million on the trade secret misappropriation claim. The Court later reduced the award to $543.7 million, plus future royalties for Hytera’s continued use of the infringing radios. Motorola was entitled to reasonable attorneys’ fees under federal and Illinois trade secret acts because Hytera was found to have willfully and maliciously misappropriated Motorola’s trade secrets.
In granting the attorneys’ fee award to Motorola, the court rejected several challenges by Hytera. First, Hytera had asserted that Motorola inappropriately billed large amounts for the current litigation in conjunction with numerous other matters related to Hytera with limited explanation. Hytera argued that Motorola was using the “fee petition to subsidize its global campaign against Hytera.” The court disagreed, finding that Motorola had provided sufficient information about the timekeepers and work performed and proof that Motorola accepted the rates and paid the bills. All other arguments were nothing more than “pure speculation.”
Second, the court rejected Hytera’s argument that Motorola’s counsel rates, $555–$1,565 per hour, were unreasonable. Hytera argued that the court should use rates from the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA) 2019 Report, which, for Chicago, lists associates at $415 per hour and partners at $644. The court found that the Valeo Partners Reports cited by Motorola provided more appropriate rates because this was not a “run of the mill intellectual property case.” Rather, it was a case between global competitors with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, involving attorneys highly specialized in the subject matter of the litigation. The court specifically found that “the qualifications, experiences, skills, and performance of Motorola’s counsel justifi[ed] an hourly rate that exceeded the Chicago rates in the AIPLA report.”
Finally, the court rejected the remaining Hytera challenges based on the size and complexity of the case, which was considered the “most important factor.” According to the court, this case was not just large and complex but “the largest and most complex.” The court listed the impressive stats that support its conclusion, including over 1,200 docket entries, 68 million pages of documents, 528 hours of deposition testimony, “unparalleled motion practice,” and a three-and-a-half-month trial that involved thousands of exhibits. Thus, the magnitude of this case supported Motorola’s fee application, including the use of block billing, charging for more than one attorney at a deposition, and billing for internal meetings.
On November 3, 2021, Hytera appealed the decision to the Seventh Circuit. The case is Motorola Solutions, Inc. v. Hytera Communications Corp., 1:17-cv-01973. Although large attorney fee awards in trade secret cases are somewhat uncommon, this case is a reminder that significant attorneys’ fees awards are possible and that litigants should consider the possibility of attorneys’ fees awards in their overall litigation risk assessment.