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Thanks to the popularity of Delaware’s U.S. District Court as a forum for patent cases involving “new economy” businesses, a recent newcomer to Wilmington’s intellectual property practice scene plans to double the size of its office within the next year. Fish & Richardson, a national firm that opened shop in Wilmington barely a year ago, credits its growth to the explosion of patent cases in the district involving technologies in the telecommunications and Internet-based industries. Several high-profile patent contests involving biotechnology have also been fought in the court in recent years. Indeed, the number of patent cases litigated in the Delaware district rose by 124 percent from 37 cases in 1994 to 83 in 1999, although the court-kept statistics don’t include what industries were involved. This year, IP attorneys are on their way to another record with 77 patent cases filed to date. “It’s my experience that cases that tend to be filed here are high profile, cutting edge and fairly sophisticated,” said William J. Marsden Jr., managing principal with Fish & Richardson in Wilmington. Like litigants in Delaware’s U.S. Bankruptcy and Chancery courts, parties to patent suits feel more comfortable with judges in the First State because of the volume of cases they handle, lawyers say. What’s more, procedural reforms that ensure firm trial dates have created something of a “rocket docket” in Delaware, Marsden said. Cases go to trial in 12 to 18 months; most trials last no more than two weeks. “A lot of us view it as fast, but also responsible,” Marsden said. When it comes to trials, the judges have worked hard to the make presentations to the jury as clear and understandable as possible. Another plus: Delaware jurors are thought to be relatively well educated. A NEW LEASE To accommodate its expansion, Fish & Richardson has signed a five-year lease with a renewal option on one half of the 11th floor — or 6,200-square-feet — in the Mellon Bank Building at 919 N. Market St. It also has a right of first offer on other available space on the 11th floor. Other Fish & Richardson offices are located in eight cities throughout the country, including Boston, New York, Washington, Dallas and San Diego. Its largest office is in Boston, the city where the firm was founded in the 19th century. The Wilmington office began moving into its new space over the weekend. It was formerly located at 901 Market St. where it had occupied approximately 1,600 square feet since July 1999. By nearly tripling its space, the practice will increase the number of attorneys from five to 10. The paralegal staff has room to expand from one to three paralegals and the secretarial staff from two to four people. “We are actively recruiting now,” Marsden said. The firm’s options were very limited when it came to shopping in Wilmington for class A space, which refers to new, well-located office space. The only other building under consideration by the practice was the Brandywine Building, the former DuPont Co. offices now part of the $100 million redevelopment project known as City Center Wilmington. Indeed, Wilmington’s office market is so tight, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for firms and businesses that want to expand, said Daniel R. Reeder of CB Richard Ellis commercial real estate in Wilmington. The vacancy rate in Wilmington for all office space is 5 percent and falls to 4 percent for class A space. TOP RENTERS The legal community in Delaware is the biggest user of office space next to the corporate sector, said David J. Wilk, president of Greystone Reality Advisors, a real estate consulting firm based in Wilmington. “The main expansion has been from out-of-state firms, but even the old stalwarts are growing,” said Wilk. The Mellon Bank Building appealed to Fish & Richardson because it is close to the federal courthouse on King Street and near the hotels, Marsden said. Most of Fish & Richardson’s work is in the federal courts. Two new attorneys have already joined the Wilmington office. John T. Meli Jr. was recently brought on as an associate after seven years with Morris, James, Hitchens & Williams where he handled intellectual property and commercial litigation. He was also supervising attorney for technology. Meli has a degree in electrical engineering from Widener University and a juris doctorate from Widener University School of Law. Before attending law school Meli worked for 14 years in software development and systems engineering in Silicon Valley. Thomas L. Halkowski, a former attorney with the environmental and resources division of the U.S. Justice Department, will join the Wilmington office as a partner. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Marquette University, a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Florida and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. Halkowski will work out of Fish & Richardson’s Washington office until his family relocates here. Fish & Richardson has a total of 196 lawyers across the country. Roughly 40 lawyers in the practice have technical doctorates in such things as electrical engineering.

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