Patent trolls, beware. Thad Kodish sees you under the bridge, he doesn't like your attitude, and he's coming to get you, trip-trap, trip-trap.
Kodish has defended several large companies—Samsung, Shaw Industries and McKesson Corp. among them—in cases involving "patent trolls," a name given to people who sue for infringement using questionable patents and tactics to win quick settlements or licensing fees, especially in the high-tech industry.
Kodish also has served as an expert witness for the Kimberly-Clark Corp. Appointments such as these generally are reserved for people with 25 or more years of experience, says Fish & Richardson principal Ruffin Cordell, "but Kodish's stellar reputation and track record of accomplishments had him ahead of the curve."
It's a sharp curve to get around. Patent infringement suits more than doubled nationally from 2009 to 2012, according to The New York Times.
Kodish had a head start. In college, a friend in engineering school told Kodish he wanted to be a patent attorney. "He said he didn't want to work in a lab all his life," Kodish remembers. "It got my attention."
With a degree in chemical engineering, Kodish took a job at Pratt & Whitney with a transition already in mind. "I was coating jet engine parts with chemicals to make them bigger, faster, stronger," he says with a laugh. "The plant was really big, really un-air-conditioned. Law school was less arduous day to day."
Patent litigation seems no less demanding, especially in the modern high-tech world. Boston University recently sued Apple over an iPhone part it claims was patented by one of its professors in 1997. The component is "highly insulating monocrystalline gallium nitride thin films."
"It's a new puzzle each time," Kodish says. "You just have to dive in. You have to understand the subject down to the atomic level. Then you have to make your case to a jury who must feel like they lost the jury-pool lottery. It's a patent case."
In June, President Barack Obama announced five executive actions and made recommendations to Congress to act on frivolous patent litigation. "There has been a lot of press about patent trolls recently," says Kodish. "The issue is picking up steam."
Kodish came to Fish & Richardson in 2007, and took what Cordell describes as "a meteoric leap to managing partner" two years ago.
Kodish says he has worked hard to build good relationships with the other lawyers in his office. "It's founded on working with many of them on cases and gaining their confidence," he says. "It's about getting along with people.
"There is also a marketing effort. You have to market the firm, get people excited about it."