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The Legal Intelligencer Recent lateral moves have some wondering whether intellectual property attorneys are trading in the large-firm life for a return to their boutique roots. At the same time, large firms are still looking to build IP practices if they can. Less than a week after Akin Gump parted ways with the bulk of the Panitch Schwarze boutique it picked up in 1999, some of the trademark attorneys who joined Drinker Biddle & Reath in 2001 from Seidel Gonda Lavorgna & Monaco are joining an old friend at another intellectual property boutique. Partners Nancy R. Frandsen and Stephen J. Meyers and counsel Cheryl L. Slipski have left Drinker Biddle and will start today at Woodcock Washburn as partners. Frandsen said she had spent nearly 20 years at Seidel Gonda before it merged with the firm and had been thinking about returning to a boutique when she got a call from another former Seidel Gonda attorney, Woodcock Washburn policy committee member Steven J. Rocci. Woodcock Washburn was looking to add a senior, lateral group to build up its trademark practice, Executive Director Jay Rose said, with plans to then continue that growth organically. After six months of talks, Frandsen, Meyers and Slipski decided to make the move, he said. “Our practice is just better suited for the boutique,” Frandsen said. While there was a learning curve when Seidel Gonda first joined Drinker Biddle, she said the firm certainly “gets it now” and understands how matter intensive intellectual property matters can be. “Drinker, I think, worked really hard at figuring it out,” Frandsen said. Big firms tend to take on big cases, however, and she said she felt it made more sense to be in a boutique that focuses on intellectual property matters. Ronald Panitch said last week his group decided to split from Akin Gump to form Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel because of increasing conflict concerns. He said intellectual property practices have many times more clients at one time than a large firm. While his boutique faced challenges competing in the market for talent causing it to merge with Akin Gump in the first place, Panitch said he learned a lot about the business of law during his time at the firm and would be better prepared to run a boutique again. Frandsen said there was a trend a few years ago of large firms looking to acquire the intellectual property boutiques they were giving so many referrals to. “I can see the trend going back toward the boutique,” she said. Now, Frandsen said, she plans to be a referral source for Drinker Biddle if the opportunity arises. She said big firms that grow their intellectual property practices organically will have more success than those who bring in boutique practices. Drinker Biddle Chairman Alfred “Alfy” Putnam said that while he doesn’t quite see a trend of intellectual property attorneys rejoining boutique firms, it is an “interesting field.” An attorney’s choice to stay at a large firm or go to a boutique often depends on the attorney and the client, he said. “We’ve ended up with a very large IP practice for a firm who a couple years ago didn’t have any,” Putnam said. Drinker Biddle has also been successful at cross-selling the practice, particularly on the litigation side, he said. It is also “undeniably true,” however, that some of the firm’s clients still use boutiques for certain matters. And while the conflicts issue is a valid one, Putnam said his firm hasn’t run into it that much. Stephen Driscoll of intellectual property boutique Synnestvedt & Lechner is the co-chairman of the intellectual property committee of the business law section of the Philadelphia Bar Association. He said there is definitely a cultural difference between an intellectual property practice and a general services firm. Seven years ago, he said, many intellectual property boutiques thought the way to survive was through a merger. And that theory makes sense, he said, for intellectual property litigation groups who need the support of bigger firms. On the procurement side, Driscoll said he wasn’t sure there was a benefit to being in a larger firm with the exception of some synergies with the corporate attorneys. Rose said Woodcock Washburn is increasingly coming across intellectual property attorneys at large firms who feel their practices are not understood. While for every successful merger there is an eventual break-up, Driscoll said expected changes in patent law might make the boutique model even more attractive. The opposition practice, a form of challenging a patent, is used overseas quite a bit, and most believe it will come to the United States within the next few years, he said. It is a less expensive form of challenging patents that uses limited discovery and someone akin to an administrative law judge as opposed to a jury, Driscoll said. There is a requirement in opposition practice that the cases are heard before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which means the attorneys have to be registered patent agents, he said. “That will militate in favor of boutiques,” Driscoll said. While boutiques may be gaining an edge, large firms aren’t giving up the idea of building intellectual property practices. In the past four months, Saul Ewing has added six people to its intellectual property, life sciences and technology practices, all with an IP bent. Kurt L. Ehresman and Theodore R. “Ted” West joined the Harrisburg office of Saul Ewing from McNees Wallace & Nurick where they will be a partner and patent agent, respectively. They have a science background and will work on patent prosecutions. Konstantina M. “Tina” Katcheves and Sandhya A. Kowdley joined the firm’s Baltimore office and will focus on patent prosecution in the biochemistry area. Katcheves went to Saul Ewing from the firm she founded, Travers Katcheves & Associates. Kowdley has a law degree from India and has an LL.M from the University of Virginia. Charles M. Lizza and William C. Baton joined the Newark, N.J., office and focus their practices on patent infringement litigation. Lizza is a partner and Baton an associate. They both joined from LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae. Robert A. Spar, co-chairman of Saul Ewing’s transactions and strategic alliances team of the life sciences practice group, said the firm has been building up its life sciences practice for a number of years but hasn’t historically grown in the patent prosecution arena. While spread across three offices, Spar said the new additions to the team have very complementary practices in that area. “It’s tough to find IP attorneys that fit in with your firm culture,” Spar said. Large firms work better for certain intellectual property areas than others, he said. Intellectual property licensing, for example, fits with a big-firm model whereas patent prosecution might work well in a boutique depending on the personalities of the attorneys, he said.

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