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For weeks Susan Hollander would dutifully drive to a dance studio near her home in San Francisco, pull on a pair of sweat pants and learn an aerobic strip-dancing routine. Jill Pietrini, for her part, regularly pops Metallica CDs into her car stereo, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel to the heavy-metal beat as she drives to work. What’s this? A couple of lawyers who are into exotic aerobics and ear-splitting music? Actually, it’s more a case of diligent attorneys making it a point to learn the details of their clients’ business. And as co-chairs of the IP and Internet practice group at Los Angeles’ Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, the pair expect the 50 lawyers and 15 paralegals whom they oversee to do the same. “This is the participatory practice of law,” says Hollander, a Palo Alto-based partner, who helped client Sheila Kelley, an actress and dancer, to copyright “The S Factor,” her pole-dancing workout. Pietrini, who has represented Metallica since 1992, once showed up for work in a not-so-lawyerly Metallica tank top, albeit nicely coordinated, thank you very much, with pearls and matching tan slacks. Whether it involves playing their clients’ music, dancing to their exercise routines, sipping their wines, slurping their smoothies or nibbling on their tuna, Hollander and Pietrini say the objective is to personally experience how all of these products differ from those served up by competitors and copycats. Hollander adds that having a deeper understanding of their clients’ business helps them as litigators. “It’s pretty rare that Jill and I, in addition to being trademark practitioners, are also trial lawyers,” she says. “A lot of trademark practitioners are not trial lawyers.” The two attorneys struck up a friendship in 2000, after Pietrini interviewed Hollander when she was looking for someone to run Manatt’s trademark group in Palo Alto. Needless to say, Hollander got the job. Now they jointly lead Manatt’s national IP group, one of the firm’s fastest growing practice areas. It also appears to be the only IP practice at a prominent national firm that is led by two women. Manatt, of course, is not the only firm that has benefited from the explosive growth of IP practices over the past several years. From Silicon Valley to Manhattan, many firms have profited from lucrative IP work, with much of the increase coming from patent litigation in the technology and biotech industries. In Manatt’s case, the IP boom has also dovetailed with the firm’s long legal ties to Hollywood’s entertainment industry. In the music world alone, Hollander and Pietrini’s trademark and copyright clientele spans hip-hop, pop, goth, new age and metal thanks to clients that range from Cher, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond to Gwen Stefani, Yanni, Steely Dan and, of course, Metallica. Other entertainment clients include Dr. Laura, Dr. Phil and former professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page. The two lawyers also represent a wide range of corporate and financial services clients that include Great Bay Bancorp, ADP Payroll, Mattel, 20th Century Fox, Mercury Insurance, Smith & Hawken, Jamba Juice and Chicken of the Sea (that’s where the tuna comes in). Hollander says that her and Pietrini’s combined practice adds up to somewhere between $6 million and $10 million per year, not including patent work. They are currently looking to expand the firm’s patent group and have been looking for a partner-level patent litigator to work out of Manatt’s Los Angeles office, says Pietrini. Amidst all of that hard-driving legal work, there’s a definite element of counter-culture playfulness in the air at Manatt. There was the time, for example, when client Rob Reger, the skateboarder who originally created the wildly popular “Emily the Strange” character to help promote a clothing line, showed up in Hollander’s office in a vintage Social Distortion T-shirt, a remnant of the 1970s punk-music era. Hollander insisted on appropriating it. “I had to have it,” she says. “I actually made him give it to me.” In exchange, Hollander gave Reger an infringed Chicken of the Sea shirt that had been seized from a bootlegger. Hollander describes Manatt’s IP group overall as being “younger, very progressive and eclectic. It’s a little less formal, a little more irreverent.” Pietrini then chimes in, “And we win!” After each new victory, the two lawyers celebrate by treating themselves to a vigorous round of shoe shopping. Some of the legal positions staked out by Hollander, Pietrini and others in their practice group have been risky. Asserting copyright protection for that aerobics dancing routine or a series of 2,000-year-old yoga poses come to mind as examples of on-the-edge IP advocacy. Last year Hollander represented Bikram Choudhury, a well-known yoga practitioner who claimed that other yoga studios were stealing his intellectual property by mimicking his methods and sequence of yoga poses. Choudhury, in turn, was sued by Open Source Yoga Unity, a nonprofit collective of yoga teachers, that argued against copyright protection for the so-called Bikram method. Hollander took on the yoga case after a federal court in New York found that the Pilates exercise method had become ubiquitous enough to be considered a generic term, thus invalidating a bid to trademark the Pilates name. “The law was not decided,” says Hollander, who ended up helping to negotiate a settlement in the yoga dispute after U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco strongly suggested in a pretrial ruling that yoga sequences could be copyrighted. Along with copyrighting the choreography for the strip exercise routine, Hollander, while representing gardening retailer Smith & Hawken, successfully argued in San Francisco federal court that a competitor’s tiki torch did not deserve copyright protection. Pietrini, meanwhile, hopes to break new IP ground with a case involving a hand sign used by Diamond Dallas Page, a former pro wrestler who is now a motivational speaker and a yoga instructor. In December, Page, whose real name is Page Falkinburg, sued rap singer Jay-Z and Roc-a-Fella Records for “misappropriating” a diamond-shaped hand sign that Falkinburg has described as his own signature gesture. Pietrini argues that her client’s use of the hand sign deserves copyright protection because it has become associated with his wrestling character in much the same way that the v-shaped hand sign from Stark Trek’s Mr. Spock became indelibly imprinted in the cultural consciousness. Both Hollander and Pietrini began their legal careers in IP, long before its popularity surged during the high-tech boom. “We’ve both always done IP,” says Hollander. “People who don’t practice don’t win. This is not new to us.” Along the way, the two lawyers have impressed not only their clients but opposing counsel as well. After aggressively litigating a patent infringement case against Pietrini eight years ago, Dan Cislo, a partner at Santa Monica’s Cislo & Thomas, appreciated her ability to maintain a good sense of humor despite the intensity of litigation. “I think it’s unusual in intellectual property matters because they’re so hotly contested and it seems like the case can turn on what would appear to others to be trivial points,” says Cislo. “So we all fight for every single inch of beach. I think the really good lawyers can detach themselves and effectively litigate the case, which Jill can do very well.” Pietrini says she wanted to become a lawyer since she was 10, when her grandfather, a tax attorney, gave her a book that contained summaries of various trials. She received her undergraduate degree from UC-Berkeley in 1983 and her law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1988. And while Hollander is now surrounded by pop culture, she was once immersed in classical Greek. After studying at Oxford University, she found herself translating Aristotle as a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Stanford before turning to law. She received her law degree in 1987 from Boalt Hall School of Law. While clerking at Brown & Bain, she became interested in the possibility of copyrighting microcode, the elementary instructions for a computer microprocesser. “Susan doesn’t talk much about her academic background,” says Paul Thomas, who prosecutes trademarks in Manatt’s Palo Alto office. “Although philosophy is argumentative like law, to go from studying ancient Greek civilization and translating Aristotle’s works that are 20 centuries old, and then becoming extremely well-versed in the most current trends in IP is quite a switch and says a lot about her ability to achieve expertise in widely divergent fields.” Working up through the legal ranks without a female mentor, Hollander was left with the “heavy-hitting, take-no-prisoners, swaggering male litigator as a role model” that, she adds, “I never wanted to emulate.” Instead she developed a style of practice that she refers to as the “Tai Chi approach” in which adversaries “propel themselves into oblivion by the force of their own bluster.” Pietrini says litigation requires a “win-or-lose mentality, and I can’t stand to lose.” But she and Hollander prefer a strategy that emphasizes subtlety and finesse over brute force when it comes to drafting legal briefs and shaping their arguments. As co-leaders of Manatt’s IP group, the two women also have very clear ideas about how to run the practice. They freely describe themselves as hands-on managers, although Hollander acknowledges that some others might even see them as “control freaks” “Jill and I both have a set view of how we believe trademark and registration work should be done so it’s important to make sure that the vision is implemented uniformly by our team,” says Hollander. “There is definitely a uniform standard of practice in our group.” In the meantime, Pietrini still has a few more songs to learn. And Hollander, at least for the moment, has abandoned her aerobics routine in favor of digging around in the dirt in behalf of another one of her clients. “I’ve been representing Scott’s Miracle Gro,” she says, referring to the lawn-and-garden folks. “I’m learning everything about grubs and creepy crawlies.”

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