BEFORE THE HEARING BOARD
OF THE
ILLINOIS ATTORNEY REGISTRATION
AND
DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION

In the Matter of:

WOOCHOON WILLIAM PARK,

Attorney-Respondent, 

No. 6278195.

 

Commission No. 2012PR00027

FILED - April 13, 2012

COMPLAINT

Jerome Larkin, Administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, by his attorney, Jessica L. Haspel, pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), complains of Respondent, Woochoon William Park, who was licensed to practice law in Illinois on November 7, 2002, and alleges that Respondent has engaged in the following conduct which tends to defeat the administration of justice or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute, and which subjects Respondent to discipline pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 770:

COUNT I
(Unlawful destruction of documents in relation to Ladas & Parry LLP)

1. Prior to May 15, 2010, Respondent was a partner in the Ladas & Parry LLP ("Ladas") law firm. Ladas is an international intellectual property law firm with a Chicago office. Respondent began working at Ladas in 2002 and became a partner in 2008.

2. On at least five occasions from January 10, 2010 through May 14, 2010, Respondent downloaded at least 75,000 electronic files from Ladas' computer network onto his own external memory devices. Those documents included Ladas' client files, a client directory, the firm's foreign associate directory, and other electronic files, such as forms and templates.

3. On April 19, 2010, Respondent incorporated William Park & Associates, Ltd. ("Park & Associates"), an Illinois law firm through which Respondent intended to engage in the practice of patent law. Between April 19, 2010 and May 15, 2010, while still a Ladas partner, Respondent undertook efforts to set up his own firm, including leasing office space and creating firm letterhead.

4. On May 14, 2010, three Ladas partners confronted Respondent about his intention to open his own firm in competition with Ladas, and requested that he immediately leave the Ladas firm's office. Thereafter, the Ladas firm began the process of terminating Respondent's employment. On May 25, 2010, Respondent, through counsel, sent Ladas a letter stating that he had resigned effective May 14, 2010.

5. On May 17, 2010, counsel for Ladas sent Respondent a litigation hold letter notifying Respondent that Ladas planned to file a lawsuit against him. Respondent received Ladas' letter, sent via email and overnight delivery, shortly thereafter. The litigation hold letter stated that Respondent should not destroy, modify or discard any electronic or hard copy records or evidence relating to, among other things, his alleged misappropriation of trade secrets and his alleged solicitation of Ladas' clients.

6. On May 21, 2010, Respondent began deleting from his external memory devices the files he had downloaded from Ladas' computer network, as described in paragraph two, above. By deleting files on May 21, 2010, Respondent acted contrary to the provisions of the litigation hold letter described in paragraph five, above.

7. On May 24, 2010, Ladas filed a complaint against Respondent in the Circuit Court of Cook County, which the court received and docketed as Ladas & Parry, LLP v. W. William Park et al., 2010 CH 22152 (Circuit Court of Cook County). In that complaint, Ladas alleged that Respondent had breached his fiduciary duties to the firm and had misappropriated trade secrets by downloading Ladas' documents and soliciting Ladas' clients prior to leaving the firm. Ladas requested that the court enter a temporary restraining order ("TRO") against Respondent.

8. On May 25, 2010, Respondent's counsel accepted service of Ladas' Summons and Verified Complaint in case number 2010 CH 22152. Respondent learned of the summons and complaint shortly thereafter.

9. Also on May 25, 2010, Respondent continued to delete from his external memory devices additional files he had downloaded from Ladas' computer network. By deleting files on May 25, 2010, Respondent acted contrary to the provisions of the litigation hold letter described in paragraph five, above.

10. On May 26, 2010, counsel for Ladas served a Motion for Expedited Discovery on Respondent's counsel and attached proposed interrogatories and requests for production of documents. Respondent learned of that motion shortly thereafter.

11. Also on May 26, 2010, Respondent continued to delete from his external memory devices additional files he had downloaded from Ladas' computer network. By deleting files on May 26, 2010, Respondent acted contrary to the provisions of the litigation hold letter described in paragraph five, above.

12. On May 27, 2010, the Hon. Daniel A. Riley entered an order granting Ladas' motion for a TRO. Among other things, the TRO barred Respondent from accessing, copying, summarizing, forwarding, downloading, or using the electronic files that he had downloaded from Ladas; ordered Respondent to surrender all external memory devices to which he had downloaded Ladas files; and prohibited Respondent from soliciting Ladas clients. Respondent learned of that order shortly thereafter.

13. Also on May 27, 2010, Respondent continued to delete from his external memory devices additional files he had downloaded from Ladas' computer network.

14. Between May 21, 2010 and May 27, 2010, Respondent deleted from his external memory devices a total of 90 files that he had previously downloaded from Ladas' computer network.

15. Respondent deleted the 90 files from the external memory devices because he believed these files were damaging to his defense in case number 2010 CH 22152.

16. Respondent caused 88 of the 90 deleted files to be overwritten and irretrievable.

17. On May 28, 2010, pursuant to the May 27, 2010 TRO, Respondent surrendered seven memory devices to Reveal Data Corporation, a third party neutral approved by the court in case number 2010 CH 22152 to receive the devices.

18. Between May 28, 2010 and November 15, 2010, Jerry Saperstein ("Saperstein"), a computer forensic specialist, conducted a forensic examination of the external memory devices surrendered by Respondent.

19. During his examination of the external memory devices, Saperstein discovered Respondent's deletion of the 90 files referred to in paragraph 14, above.

20. On November 15, 2010, Ladas filed a motion for sanctions in case number 2010 CH 22152 alleging that Respondent had deliberately destroyed evidence relevant to the litigation prior to surrendering his memory devices pursuant to the court's TRO.

21. On July 15, 2011, the Hon. Mary J. Mikva entered an order sanctioning Respondent based on her finding that Respondent had deliberately destroyed documents contained on the memory devices prior to surrendering those devices pursuant to the TRO. The court issued a jury instruction adverse to Respondent, ordered Respondent to pay Ladas $58,819.74 for fees and costs, and entered a permanent injunction prohibiting Respondent from accessing, copying, summarizing, forwarding, downloading, or in any way using any files that he had downloaded from Ladas.

22. As of April 4, 2012, (the date Panel D of the Commission Inquiry Board voted that a complaint be filed in this matter), case number 2010 CH 22152 remained pending.

23. By reason of the conduct described above, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. unlawfully altered, destroyed, or concealed a document or other material having potential evidentiary value, in violation of Rule 3.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. in pretrial procedure, failing to make a reasonably diligent effort to comply with a legally proper discovery request by an opposing party, in violation of Rule 3.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  3. conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(c) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  4. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  5. conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice, or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

Count II
(Neglect and failure to communicate in relation to several patent matters)

24. The Administrator realleges the facts set forth in paragraph one, above.

25. As an attorney employed by Ladas, Respondent was assigned to prepare and prosecute certain patent applications before the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO"). Respondent was also assigned to work with foreign associates in connection with patent applications pending in other countries, including Brazil.

26. From time to time during the course of Respondent's employment with Ladas, Ladas received documents entitled "Office Actions" from the USPTO in connection with pending patent applications. As Respondent knew, each Office Action sent by the USPTO stated the reasons why the USPTO had then determined not to grant a patent based on a given patent application.

27. Respondent knew that he was required to timely respond to any Office Actions issued by the USPTO in connection with any patent applications that he was prosecuting. Respondent further knew that if he did not timely respond to an Office Action in connection with a patent application, that application would automatically become abandoned.

28. On November 2, 2007, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") issued an Office Action that required Respondent to provide additional information on behalf of client Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. ("Huawei"), in relation to US Patent Application No. 11/872,103. On May 2, 2008, Respondent, on behalf of Huawei, responded to that November 2, 2007 Office Action.

29. On May 21, 2008, the USPTO issued a notice of incomplete reply in relation to US Patent Application No. 11/872,103. Shortly thereafter, Ladas received and docketed the notice of incomplete reply, and Respondent knew that he was required to respond to that notice.

30. Between May 21, 2008 and September 12, 2008, Respondent did not respond to the May 21, 2008 notice of incomplete reply in connection with US Patent Application No. 11/872,103. As a result, on September 12, 2008, the USPTO issued a notice of abandonment for US Patent Application No. 11/872,103. Although Respondent received the September 12, 2008 notice of abandonment shortly thereafter, at no time did he take steps to revive the application or to notify Huawei that he had caused US Patent Application No. 11/872,103 to become abandoned.

31. On or about July 31, 2009, Respondent received notice that the Brazilian Patent Office had rendered and published a final decision rejecting Brazilian Patent Application No. P1 9710877-4, which Ladas had previously caused to be filed on behalf of Zenith Electronics Corporation. As of July 31, 2009, Respondent knew that unless he took further action, Brazilian Patent Application No. PI 9710877-4 would be abandoned.

32. At no time prior to September 23, 2010, did Respondent tell Zenith that the Brazilian Patent Office had rendered and published a final decision in connection with Brazilian Patent Application No. PI 9710877-4, or discuss with Zenith whether Respondent should take further action to prosecute the application.

33. Between December 23, 2005 and April 27, 2010, Respondent received, but failed to respond to, Office Actions in connection with at least five other patent applications pending with the USPTO. Respondent knew that each Office Action required him to provide further information on behalf of the client for whom the respective patent application was pending. As a result of Respondent's failure to timely respond to each Office Action, the following patent applications became abandoned without the client's consent or knowledge: US Patent Application Nos. 10/701,326; 10/513,890; 10/625,287; 10/701,306; and 11/082,292. Respondent, in fact, allowed US Patent Application No. 10/701,306 to become abandoned twice.

34. On or shortly prior to February 6, 2012, Respondent entered into a settlement agreement and stipulation with the USPTO Office of Enrollment and Discipline ("OED") in the matter entitled In the Matter of Woochoon W. Park, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Proceeding D2011-56. Respondent stipulated that he had allowed seven patent applications (including the applications referred to in paragraphs 28 and 33, above) to become abandoned without the respective client's knowledge or consent.

35. On February 6, 2012, pursuant to the settlement agreement and stipulation in Proceeding D2011-56, the Director of the USPTO entered a Final Order reprimanding Respondent and placing him on probation for twelve months. The Final Order further provided that if Respondent failed to comply with the provisions of the Final Order or the USPTO Code of Professional Responsibility during his probationary period, the OED Director would issue an Order to Show Cause why the USPTO Director should not enter an order immediately suspending Respondent for up to twelve months.

36. By reason of the conduct outlined above that occurred before January 1, 2010, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990);

  2. failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter, in violation of Rule 1.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990);

  3. conduct which is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(a)(5) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (1990); and

  4. conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice, or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

37. By reason of the conduct described above that occurred on or after January 1, 2010, Respondent has engaged in the following misconduct:

  1. failure to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  2. failure to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter in violation of Rule 1.4(a) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010);

  3. conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(d) of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct (2010); and

  4. conduct that tends to defeat the administration of justice, or to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.

WHEREFORE, the Administrator respectfully requests that this matter be assigned to a panel of the Hearing Board, that a hearing be held pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 753(b), and that the Panel make findings of fact, conclusions of fact and law, and a recommendation for such discipline as is warranted.

Jessica L. Haspel
Counsel for the Administrator
One Prudential Plaza
130 East Randolph Drive, Suite 1500
Chicago, Illinois 60601-6219
Telephone: (312) 565-2600
Respectfully submitted,

Jerome Larkin, Administrator
Attorney Registration and
Disciplinary Commission

By: Jessica L. Haspel