Routh, of Orrick, falls into that camp. "I don't see it reducing litigation so much as providing another battlefield," he says. "You can decrease the weapons your competitors have against you if you challenge their patents early on, rather than waiting for litigation."
Columbia expresses some skepticism as well. "I don't think there will be the rush to postgrant review that some people are claiming, because the cost of giving up later court arguments is pretty high," she says. "I don't think the act, in and of itself, is going to have too much of an effect on NPEs and the volume and frequency with which they file."
One firm disappears, while two others mergeand could rise to the top next year.
Recent law firm dissolutions and mergers have shaped the "who's who" of patent litigation. The most notable changes were the shuttering of IP powerhouse Howrey (fourth in last year's rankings), and Kilpatrick Stockton's merger with the IP shop Townsend and Townsend and Crew.
Winston & Strawn most aggressively courted Howrey's displaced patent lawyers. It has hired 37 of them so far, including 32 from its former Houston office, which James Hurst, chairman of Winston's IP group, calls the "crown jewel of the Howrey dissolution." Because we include in our rankings the cases that ex-Howrey lawyers brought with them to Winston & Strawn, the firm soared into fifth place in our rankingsup from thirteenth in 2010 and twentieth in 2009. "Taking on almost 40 lawyers was a pretty big expansion," says Hurst. "They represent the energy industry in patent litigation, so suddenly we work with a brand-new industry."
The Kilpatrick Townsend merger in January also shook up the patent litigation world. Kilpatrick Stockton, the larger of the two legacy firms, handled 38 cases in 2010, up from 32 in 2009. Townsend and Townsend and Crew handled 35 matters in 2010. Combined, that's 73 cases, which would have placed Kilpatrick Stockton in second place in this year's rankings. After the merger, Kilpatrick is now a go-to litigation firm for companies that it previously represented only in transactional matters, like patent prosecution and licensing, says partner John Pratt.
See also: "2011 Patent Litigation Survey: The Busiest Firms Overall," CorpCounsel, November 2011.
This article originally appeared in Corporate Counsel under the headline “Patently Up.”