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Google Inc. has replaced the high-profile attorney leading its defense against a $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom Inc.

The lawsuit filed by Viacom in March claims copyright infringement based on the unauthorized appearance of numerous Viacom shows on Google's YouTube video-sharing service.

In May, Google retained Phil Beck, of Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott LLP, to lead its defense. Beck is best known for representing George W. Bush in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, and working with the U.S. Department of Justice in its antitrust settlement with Microsoft Corp.

But in a filing in U.S. District Court in New York, Google attorneys requested that Beck and fellow Bartlit Beck attorneys be replaced by attorneys from international firm Mayer Brown LLP.

Google litigation counsel Catherine Lacavera said in a prepared statement that, "We decided to make this change because it appeared that scheduling conflicts might pose problems as we move into the more active stages of discovery."

Lacavera added that, "Mayer Brown has a substantial presence and history practicing law in New York, where the lawsuits are pending."
Making such a move well before a possible trial in the case is not unusual, said Charles Hosch, an intellectual property attorney with Strasburger & Price LLP. "It's certainly not automatically an aspersion or some sort of indication of anything untoward," Hosch said.

Mayer Brown attorney Richard Ben-Veniste, who will be assuming Google's defense as part of the switch, is also a high-profile attorney, best known for his role as Watergate prosecutor in the 1970s, and as a member of the 9/11 Commission.

While retaining Beck was considered a significant move by Google, "retaining Ben-Veniste is a big deal, too," Hosch said.


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