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To hear Charles Lipsey tell it, his career is due in large part to a series of happy coincidences. From being “fortunate to be picked” as a law clerk for the legendary Judge Giles Rich to “being allowed” to carry famed patent litigator Donald Dunner’s briefcase for a decade, Lipsey is quick to deflect credit. But none of his peers are buying it. And neither are his clients. “I’ve never hesitated for a second to get Charlie,” says Linda Friedman, senior vice president of Astellas US. She adds, “You hit bumps and snags along the way, but he is steady and incredibly brilliant with the strategy. He’s able to see all the angles.” A partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, Lipsey has built his patent litigation practice on a foundation of high-profile clients and high-profile cases. Besides Astellas, he has represented clients such as pharmaceutical powerhouse Eli Lilly and Co., technology giant 3M, and biotech innovator Geron. With all due respect to Dunner, Lipsey, 55, has long since stopped carrying a briefcase for anybody else. A graduate of George Washington University Law School, Lipsey spent four years as a patent examiner in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He clerked for Rich (then of the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals) and joined Finnegan in 1978. Today he is based in the firm’s Reston, Va., office. Initially, Lipsey was a classic patent attorney who handled cases across a range of technologies. But in recent years he has narrowed his focus to target clients and cases in the life sciences area. According to Lipsey, that shift was more an evolution than a plan. “If you learn your trade well and keep your options open, then you will be in a position to seize the available opportunities,” he says. Early in his career, his role in Gallo v. Montagnier, a dispute with social and political significance, brought him attention in the international health and legal communities. In the mid-1980s, as researchers were racing to get some handle on the AIDS epidemic, two scientists, Luc Montagnier of France’s Pasteur Institute and Robert Gallo of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, disputed the development of, and hence the patent rights for, the HIV antibody blood test. Lipsey handled the patent interference proceeding on behalf of the Pasteur Institute. (In the end the two scientists agreed to share credit.) A decade later, Lipsey represented Eli Lilly, a major client over the years, in Regents of the University of California v. Eli Lilly. The 1997 Federal Circuit case, which involved recombinant DNA technology used to make human insulin, set a much-discussed precedent on making patent claims when the science has not yet been fully developed. Still, despite his standing, Lipsey is most comfortable heaping praise on those around him. “Candidly, my perception is that I’ve been incredibly lucky in my career,” says Lipsey. “It’s the lawyers I’ve worked with and the clients I’ve had. Without the trust of quality clients, it’s pretty hard to do good work.”

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