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The National Law Journal released the 2016 Intellectual Property Hot List: a special report recognizing 15 law firms that performed exceptionally well in intellectual property. In no particular ranking, each of the 15 firms stood out for handling remarkable IP cases in 2015. Ranging in size, from Biglaw to small, IP boutiques, some firms lead victorious cases that impacted major industries.

Jenner & Block gained recognition for saving rapper, Jay-Z, who faced a copyright infringement battle for using a sample of an Egyptian composer’s song in one of his own in 2000. Andrew Bart, partner at Jenner, argued and won the case on the first day of trial. The Chicago-based firm also claimed big wins on the patent side for their clients: Hospira Inc., Dow Chemical Co., and Nissan North American Inc. Attorneys at Jenner are now working on new litigation cases over the innovative technology associated with gene editing.

According to the NLJ report, California-based Cooley faced a $500 million patent infringement case representing Qualcomm Technologies Inc. against ParkerVision Inc. involving converting electromagnetic signs from high to low frequency. Timothy Teter, a younger generation partner at Cooley, argued the case, resulting in the three-judge panel reversing the original verdict.

Biglaw Kirkland & Ellis made the IP Hot List, in large part, due to their extraordinary patent litigation team. Kirkland partners, Dale Cendali and Daniel Bond, handled a copyright case for Nike Inc. in 2015. Photographer Jacobus Rentmeester accused the Nike brand of copying a 1984 photo he took for Life magazine of Michael Jorden to use for its famous “Jumpman” logo—a $2 billion brand. New York partner Greg Arovas told NLJ, “There’s really substantial trial work done by some of the less senior people in the department.”

Los Angeles-based Sheppard Mullin, a firm less than half the size of Kirkland, won a unanimous case against the U.S. Supreme Court. Incredibly, the case in point, Hana Financial v. Hana Bank, was one that had not been brought to the high court in almost 100 years. Sheppard also gained a notable win in its six-year litigation fight in Intellect Wireless v. HTC, ultimately resulting in the court awarding HTC Corp. $4.1 million. According to the National Law Journal, the firm’s IP practice has grown three times in size since 2006.

Among the other dominating Intellectual Property firms that made the 2016 IP Hot List were: Covington & Burling, Debevoise & Plimpton, Fish & Richardson, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Goodwin Procter, Irell & Manella, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Morrison & Foerster, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.

See more of the highlights from the NLJ 2016 IP Hot List on the National Law Journal.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Intellectual property firm Kenyon & Kenyon neither confirmed nor denied rumors that they will be canceling their summer associate program, the ABA Journal reports.  The firm said in a statement that while they “have not officially cancelled [their] summer associate program,” they “cannot say with any certainty there will be a summer program at this time,” (as quoted in the ABA Journal).  Although the firm has not yet rescinded their offers to summer associates, they told them that they understand if they “may feel the need to explore other opportunities.”

AmLaw Daily reported in October that the IP giant lost 16.4 percent of their attorneys in 2015 and “watched a steady stream of partners head for the door.”

The “vast majority” of lawyers and staff from Houston-based IP boutique Novack Druce Connolly Bove & Quigg will be absorbed into the fast-growing Polsinelli, according to recent reports by The American Lawyer.

Polsinelli chairman and CEO Russell Welsh told The American Lawyer that acquisition by Polsinelli, which currently has just over 700 attorneys, will enhance their already “robust IP practice,” especially in the burgeoning area of post-grant patent reviews (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Novak Druce, which had 140 attorneys in 2012, has been losing “a stream of partners to competitors,” The American Lawyer reports, including Drinker Biddle, Reed Smith, and Dykema Gossett.  This mirrors the ongoing trend for intellectual property boutiques in the recent years, many of which have been struggling and have since been absorbed into or have had partners taken by mid-sized, full-service firms like Polsinelli.

Ranked the fast-growing firm for the seventh year in the row, Polsinelli has experienced continued success in their expansion efforts, with revenue rising 11.4 percent in 2015 (The American Lawyer).  Their now-proven strategy is to concentrate growth in low overhead markets in order to compete for health care work and other “price-sensitive assignments.”  Todd Dickinson of Novack Druce’s executive committee agrees with their method, telling The American Lawyer that Polsinelli utilizes a “Midwest sensibility about rates that’s client friendly.”

The frenzy of mergers between IP boutiques and national full-service firms shows no signs of abatement, The American Lawyer reports.  Since April, at least eight IP firms have been acquired by Am Law 200 firms, driven largely in part by the recent changes in patent law, according to the article.

The America Invents Act, passed in 2011, allows the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to review patent challenges, creating a quicker and less costly alternative to litigating in federal district courts.

However, patent litigation “remains hot,” the article argues, citing the results of a Lex Machina study, which found that patent litigation in the U.S. increased by 15 percent last year.  The struggle for boutique patent firms, according to shareholder Thomas Anderson of Gifford Krass, a firm that merged with Dinsmore this past fall, is acquiring and keeping the larger clients.  Anderson says that it “becomes hard for a firm of our size to attract large-scale patent litigation [because] Fortune 50 companies want large firms with lots of resources” (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

Larger, full-service firms view the bolting on of IP boutiques as a quick and easy way to build up their patent practice, an area which is “incredibly important” to clients, says Lewis Rose, managing partner of Kelley Drye.

With boutique IP firms across the country continuing to battle to maintain revenue and retain partners, it looks like this merger rush won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Intellectual property boutique Brinks, Gilson, & Leone lost four litigation partners to Midwest-based Barnes & Thornburg last week, according to The American Lawyer.  This follows the recent trend for IP boutiques, many of which have either been absorbed by larger firms or have also had an unusually large number of partners depart.

John Gabrielides, one of the four partners that moved to Barnes, explained that they felt “limited in the services we could offer to our clients” at Brinks Gilson, and that joining a full-service firm “gives us a lot more flexibility and latitude” (as reported by The American Lawyer).

 

Who do the Fortune 500 corporations turn to when they need intellectual property litigators?  According to a recent survey by The American Lawyer, these companies don’t rely exclusively on the giant brand-name law firms, but instead often depend on mid-sized IP firms for their defense.  See the survey results at: http://www.corpcounsel.com/id=1202737903224.