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SERRA THINKS FEDS APPLYING DIFFERENT STANDARD TO HIM J. Tony Serra wasn’t the only one who got deja vu when he appeared in court recently to face charges that he failed to pay income taxes. John Youngquist, the former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the famous defense lawyer on similar charges in 1974, said Serra’s latest tangle with the Internal Revenue Service filled him with “amusement and nostalgia.” “My, how 30 years have changed his outlook on prison, but not on the Internal Revenue laws,” Youngquist said. Back then, Youngquist was chief of the tax division at the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office. Serra refused to plead guilty and took the case to trial, defending himself on three charges. The jury hung on two counts and convicted him on the third. Youngquist said U.S. District Judge Albert Wollenberg expressed his affection for Serra before sending him off to Lompoc federal prison for four months, saying, “It was time he learned a lesson.” Serra bragged that he was able to continue doing legal work while in Lompoc. After he was released, he recommended the experience for other defense attorneys. Serra was convicted again in 1986 for filing late returns and was placed on probation. Serra’s tactics since have changed. He has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of failing to pay his taxes and has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine. He’s also admitted that he hasn’t paid taxes since 1991 and is working on a plan with his lawyer, Randolph Daar, to make things right with a civil penalty. Although he said he didn’t mind going to prison in the 1974 case, this time around he hopes to avoid taking time away from his busy trial practice. The government has recommended he serve 10 to 16 months. What hasn’t changed is Serra’s opinion of federal government persecution. Serra said the latest charges come all the way from the top — from former Attorney General John Ashcroft — and he said he’s being treated more harshly than other tax-avoiders. As evidence, Serra points to the fact that his current case is being handled by Department of Justice lawyers in Washington, D.C., and not the local tax division. The DOJ lawyers working on the case declined to comment; a spokesman for the Northern District U.S. attorney’s office said local prosecutors were recused but refused to say why, citing office policy. Youngquist, who left the federal prosecutor’s office in 1978 to become a tax defense attorney, said he couldn’t recall Serra making those kinds of accusations in 1974. Asked if there could be any truth to such a conspiracy theory, Youngquist said, “He’s got a point there, possibly.” — Jeff Chorney BAYH-DOLING CALIFORNIA’S IP California wants to protect its gold. Its intellectual property gold, that is. Last year the Legislature passed a bill calling for a study on how the state should deal with IP created under state grants and contracts. Now a 17-person study group is coming up with specific recommendations for the governor and Legislature. At issue is who actually owns the IP — the state funding agency or the grantee. “One question is how far do you go to keep the benefits of a project within the state when [Californians] paid for it with their taxes,” said study group member James Pooley, a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Pooley said one of the questions the group is trying to answer is whether the state should put IP from state-funded research into the public domain or take ownership of the IP and license its use to others. The study group was put together by the California Council on Science and Technology, a state organization that advises the government on scientific issues. Susan Hackwood, CCST’s executive director, said each state agency and department currently has its own policies for dealing with IP, which has made it increasingly difficult for people to do business with the state. Hackwood said she knows of no other state that has developed a uniform IP policy. The federal government’s policy is laid out in the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act. The legislation allows universities to retain ownership of federally funded inventions and requires that they license rights to others to commercialize the inventions. “We hope [our study] will have the same positive impact on IP transfer as Bayh-Dole has at the federal level,” Hackwood said. The study group is also making separate recommendations for handling IP from stem-cell research authorized under Prop 71. The initiative, passed by California voters in November, will pump $3 billion into stem-cell research at California universities and research institutions over the next 10 years. “The question is whether the state should share in any royalty revenue generated from patents under the stem-cell initiative,” said Alan Bennett, co-chair of the study group and associate vice chancellor for research at UC-Davis’ Office of Research, Technology and Industry Alliances. The report on stem-cell research is to be completed in June, while the broader report on IP policy is due at the end of the year. — Brenda Sandburg BRANDING VLG AT ORRICK So how do you brand the new VLG Orrick lawyers? Nine former Venture Law Group partners did a brief stint at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe before jumping to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe earlier this year. Other VLG lawyers who stayed at Heller are maintaining their golden-colored VLG acorn logo. The VLG group now at Orrick needed a new identity. “It’s not going to be VLG II,” says partner John Bautista. But the group is part of a larger Emerging Companies practice group, which includes other lawyers from throughout the firm. “We’re very conscious about saying this is not a separate group that will operate independently from the firm,” says Orrick spokeswoman Ashley Kanigher. But the firm also wanted to communicate the group’s commitment to the needs of technology companies. Their solution: a logo with the word “Emerging” underscoring in bright orange Orrick’s green “O.” The color choice, Kanigher said, wasn’t chosen to recall the golden VLG acorn. “They told us the orange connotes warmth and is a welcoming color,” says Bautista. “And it’s red hot — like we are going someplace.” — Marie-Anne Hogarth

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