Intellectual property attorney Ashley I. Pezzner is set to leave Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg to join Drinker Biddle & Reath, Novak Druce senior partner Jeff Bove has confirmed.
Pezzner represents chemical, biotech, biomedical and pharmaceutical clients in multiple areas, including patent counseling, interferences, prosecution and re-examination. He was described by one intellectual property attorney as a “significant rainmaker.”
Sources have said that Pezzner’s father, Harold Pezzner, who currently serves as of counsel at Novak Druce, and two associates will also be joining Drinker Biddle, but Bove did not confirm the other departures.
“Ashley wanted to leave to join a general-practice firm,” Bove said. “That is fairly typical in the intellectual property world. Obviously, we wish him the best of luck.”
Ashley Pezzner declined to discuss his departure. Thomas P. McGonigle, the managing partner of Drinker Biddle’s Wilmington office, did not return calls seeking comment.
Pezzner, a member of the Delaware bar since 1993, was promoted from associate to partner at the firm in 2000, when it was Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz. He was appointed to the firm’s management committee in 2010.
Prior to joining Connolly Bove, he was a chemical patent examiner with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and also worked in the inorganic, organic and polymer industries.
Pezzner is the second major departure this year from Novak Druce’s Wilmington office. In February, Patricia S. Rogowski, also an intellectual property attorney, left Novak Druce after 26 years to lead Philadelphia-based Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel’s expansion into Delaware. Rogowski represents clients in the consumer products and food sciences industries.
Other Novak Druce departures over the past two years include Thomas McWilliams, Edward “Ted” Behm, Michael Berman and Jefferson Cheatham, who joined Barnes & Thornburg in late 2012. Mary Bourke joined Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in October 2012 and brought four former Connolly Bove attorneys to her new firm. Chad Stover joined Barnes & Thornburg in October 2013.
Although there have been some departures, intellectual property attorney Eric J. Evain has returned to Novak Druce after leaving earlier this year for McCarter & English. Evain, who rejoined the firm April 1, represents companies operating in a wide variety of chemical-related fields, including speciality chemicals, pharmaceuticals, polymers and petroleum. He counsels clients regarding trade-secret protection strategy and has defended companies who have been accused of patent infringement.
“As Ashley leaves, Eric returns, so the tide flows both ways in terms of intellectual property boutiques and general-practice firms,” Bove said. “We think we are going to see a lot more flow into the boutiques from the general-practice firms.”
Evain’s addition helps add to the firm’s goal of expanding the Wilmington office by an additional 25 percent, according to Bove. However, he added that there is no timetable for that expansion, noting that it depends on when they are able to line up good candidates. The firm is looking at both individual attorneys and groups.
The firm has added nine new attorneys, including Evain, since January and named 10 new partners, Bove said.
“The Wilmington office is part of a rapidly-growing national intellectual property boutique,” Bove added. “The tide is much heavier flowing into our law firm than out of it in terms of personnel.”
In a January interview with Delaware Law Weekly, Bove said that Connolly Bove’s merger with Novak Druce has met both firms’ expectations and that its level of business has risen consistently over the last nine months. Last week, Bove said the firm’s financials “ended excellently” and that Novak Druce beat its budget. ”This is not your father’s Connolly Bove,” he said. “In terms of Delaware specifically, the firm views it as a critical region for intellectual property and we intend to pursue an active recruiting program in Delaware. We are making efforts to establish ourselves in the Delaware community through charitable events.”
Traditionally, Novak Druce has represented software and technology clients, while Connolly Bove was known for biopharmaceutical and mechanical companies. The combination of the two firms has diversified their client base, Bove said.
The new clients have brought a mix of patent prosecution and litigation work to Novak Druce, according to Bove. Patent prosecution currently accounts for roughly 70 percent of Novak Druce’s business, but Bove hopes to have the firm’s work split evenly between prosecution and litigation.
“My goal is to have Novak Druce at 50-50 patent and litigation,” Bove said. “I truly believe it is obtainable at Novak Druce given the firm’s location in very active litigation venues and its reputation. Anything less than that, to me, is not successful.”