Silicon Valley is the heart of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s legal business, and IP work for tech clients has been key to the firm’s success.
Last year was no different. Partner David Kramer helped Google Inc. win a dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Gary Black and Holli Beam-Black in California, who sued the Web giant over what they considered a defamatory post about their roofing business posted by a user on Google Places. If successful, the Blacks’ case could have had major ramifications for social-media companies, since much of their content is user generated. Kramer argued that Google was protected by a section of the Communications Decency Act that gives Internet companies immunity for hosting content posted by third parties. In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal.
Partners Nicole Stafford, Stuart Williams and David Steuer helped generic drug manufacturer Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc. rebuff a patent infringement suit brought by AstraZeneca L.P. AstraZeneca sued Mylan in 2008, claiming it was violating rights to a drug for Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel disease. In a per curiam decision in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a district judge’s decision in Mylan’s favor.
Wilson Sonsini’s Colleen Bal and former associate Bart Volkmer also aided the Electronic Frontier Foundation in representing Thomas DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor sued by copyright troll Righthaven LLC. Righthaven claimed it owned the rights to a news article DiBiase had posted on his blog, which provides information to prosecutors investigating homicide cases in which no body has ever been found. The suit was dismissed in June by a federal judge in Nevada.
There were other successes besides litigation. Seagate Technology, a maker of hard drives, turned to partner Selwyn Goldberg to handle patent licensing matters as part of a $1.4 billion deal with Samsung Group. The deal included Seagate’s acquisition of Samsung’s hard disk operations and a patent cross-license agreement between the companies.
“Our client base is largely technology firms,” said Douglas Clark, co-managing partner of the firm. “The life history of our clients is all tied into IP.” Clark said the 140-lawyer IP group is likely to see growth in Internet-related copyright litigation cases. But patent prosecutions for life-science startups are also rising. “For these companies their entire business is the patent so it’s a strategic purchase,” he said. “Securing it effectively is a high priority for them.” — Jason McLure