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Gerald Dodson took a trip to Italy a few weeks ago. To Florence, to be precise. But he wasn’t there to see the statue of David or any other Renaissance art. Instead, he flew there for a scientific conference on Cox-2 inhibitors, a radical new group of drugs commonly called “super aspirin” because of their amazing healing powers. He was especially eager to hear talks by top scientists and executives from G.D. Searle & Co. Inc., the Skokie, Ill., concern that last year marketed Celebrex, the first Cox-2 inhibitor drug. That’s because Dodson, an intellectual property partner in Morrison & Foerster’s Palo Alto, Calif. office, sued Searle and its corporate parent, Pharmacia Corp., earlier this year, claiming that Searle’s sales — $1.5 billion in the first year — infringed on the University of Rochester’s four-month-old patent on Cox-2 inhibitors. The European conference gave Dodson the perfect opportunity to scope out the enemy’s experts and fish around for potential allies. “I’ve now seen them and been able to assess them,” Dodson says. “If you sit in [seminars] for four or five days, you can pretty quickly learn a hell of a lot.” The 12,000-mile round-trip literally shows just how far Dodson, one of the nation’s hottest biotech litigators and patent law experts, will go to win a big case. And big the Rochester case is: Royalties to the victor could mount into the billions of dollars. So if a trip to Italy seems necessary, so be it. Dodson got into the biotech game only 11 years ago — having been a Pittsburgh prosecutor and a Capitol Hill congressional investigator in previous lives — but now he’s charging $450 an hour and quickly becoming known as the go-to guy for big-time biotech cases. Besides the Rochester case, he’s now working on other patent or trade secret cases for the University of California, The Clorox Co. and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, among others. Dodson’s name recognition went through the roof last year when he got a $200 million settlement for UC in a 12-year dispute with South San Francisco-based Genentech Inc. over the patent rights to human growth hormone. The settlement, believed to be the largest in biotech history, confirmed Dodson as a rising star in the IP arena and likely cemented a decision by Chambers and Partners, a London company that evaluates attorneys, to rank Dodson as one of the top IP lawyers in the United States. The UC victory also landed Dodson his lead counsel role in the University of Rochester’s patent suit against Pharmacia and its subsidiaries. “He definitely showed his acumen in that case,” says Terrance O’Grady, associate counsel for the University of Rochester Medical Center. “He showed his ability to try a complex biotech patent case.” But like anyone with a certain level of success, Dodson also has managed to irk a few people. Some competitors argue that he’s a one-trick pony, with a reputation based on little more than his UC win. Others, meanwhile, take him to task for allegedly leaving a trail of broken hearts by whisking through three firms in 10 years before joining Morrison in 1999. “Jerry is very bright, but he’s opportunistic and looks out for No. 1,” says a partner at one of Dodson’s former firms who requests anonymity. “He has no firm or institutional loyalty.” Dodson regrets any hard feelings he might have caused, but says he jumped ship because of specific deficiencies at each firm at the time. It was his perception that each lacked the proper expertise or support services to develop his IP litigation practice, or to provide the resources needed for UC and its mega-patent case. “The law firms weren’t as important as the clients or the case,” Dodson says. “And the last thing I wanted to do was poorly represent UC.” John Lynch — who partnered with Dodson for a short time in the Silicon Valley office of what was then Houston-based Arnold White & Durkee — empathizes, calling Dodson a talented lawyer who did what he felt necessary to succeed. He says it’s important to recognize that Dodson brings an intensity to his work that can be off-putting to some people. “That’s not a criticism,” Lynch adds. “But there are times when the intensity is really intense. That’s Jerry, and you’ve got to factor that in the way you deal with him.” A CHANGE OF LIFE IP law wasn’t Dodson’s first love. Environmental law was. Dodson, now 52, cut his teeth in the late ’70s by prosecuting pollution cases as an assistant county solicitor in Pittsburgh and later pushing environmental causes as California congressman Henry Waxman’s right-hand man. Those two jobs taught Dodson a few things about real life. Facing U.S. Steel on its home turf brought death threats, he says, and on Capitol Hill he found himself facing down power brokers who loved nothing more than making his life hell. But he got U.S. Steel to close a few smoke-belching factories and revamp others, and helped sculpt congressional legislation regarding strip mining, clean air, safe drinking water and toxic substances. He even headed up the congressional investigation into Union Carbide Corp.’s 1984 pesticide-plant disaster in Bhopal, India. “That’s the kind of stuff that really makes me go,” he says. In fact, his passion for the work left an impression with Waxman, who calls Dodson “one of the most outstanding people I’ve ever had working on my staff.” “Jerry is a very practical person,” the Los Angeles Democrat says. “He can look for ways to bridge differences, but at the same time he has a firmly rooted set of objectives he wants to achieve.” As much fun as Dodson says he had on Capitol Hill, he had his eyes set on Silicon Valley and the emerging biotech boom. So he moved west in 1988 with his wife, Patricia — a former aide to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi — and their son, Sam, to join what’s now Palo Alto’s Townsend and Townsend and Crew as a junior associate. It was a risky move, but Dodson quickly became Townsend’s young hotshot, making partner and snagging the UC case before bolting to what’s now Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin in 1992. He stayed only three years, moving in 1995 to Arnold White & Durkee, where he remained until hooking up with Morrison last year. UC stayed loyal all along, pleased with Dodson’s work. “It was very a complicated case,” says Berkeley-based UC counsel Martin Simpson, “and there would have been a significant learning curve for somebody new.” Some fellow IP lawyers, including a few at Dodson’s former firms, though, criticize Dodson’s hopscotch career, saying he burned many bridges and left behind a lot of disillusioned people. “Everybody here kind of trusted Jerry and kind of got scorched,” says a partner at one of Dodson’s former firms. Townsend managing partner David Slone is a bit more diplomatic. “When people leave, there’s always a feeling of loss, sadness, betrayal, anger, all the phases you go through,” he says. “And, further, when someone takes a big case, there are some people who are going to be bent out of shape.” Partners at Howard, Rice didn’t return telephone calls. But Lynch, a partner at what’s now Washington, D.C.-based Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White, admits that Dodson’s departure hurt Arnold White & Durkee. “It did deplete us to an extent that I would have preferred not to have dealt with,” he says. “But that’s the way it was. It’s not as if there was any bad faith or promises that weren’t kept. I was sorry to lose him.” MARQUEE NAME OR NOT? Dodson understands the criticism, but stoutly defends each job change. Townsend was weak on the litigation side during his tenure, he says, while Howard, Rice needed more technical ability. And at Arnold White & Durkee, he notes, the three partners who recruited him suddenly left, while the remainder of the firm was resisting the Howrey & Simon merger Dodson favored. “I thought the firm was collapsing,” he says, “and I had the biggest biotech case in history, and I wanted to win it for the University of California.” Morrison & Foerster offered a sanctuary, a large firm with a strong IP presence, powerful litigators and plenty of support, including at least 10 lawyers working on the UC case with Dodson at trial. “We were able to do something in a very short time,” says Dodson, who took the UC case to trial only nine months after joining Morrison. “And I just think that wouldn’t have happened at the other law firms. I would have been too stretched.” Michael Carlson, the managing partner of Morrison’s Palo Alto office, says Dodson’s job-hopping was taken into consideration before he was hired. “But we were very quickly satisfied that this was not a problem,” he says. “Each of the moves had an independent reason, and it wasn’t as if there was some pattern.” At the same time, Carlson says, Dodson added a bit of glamour to Morrison’s Silicon Valley office. “We sort of lacked what some people regard as a marquee partner, well known in the IP area and a resident of this office,” Carlson says. “Jerry has a national reputation.” Not so, say some IP lawyers. One nationally known IP litigator, who requests anonymity, says that while Dodson’s UC victory was a great achievement, he’s not yet a prominent figure on the national scene. Others argue that the UC case is his only true claim to fame. Lynn Pasahow, a biotech and patent litigation partner in the Palo Alto office of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, agrees that Dodson’s reputation “is very much connected with that case.” But he also points to other cases, including A.C. Aukerman v. R.L. Chaides Construction Co., 960 F.2d 1020, a 1992 federal case in which Dodson managed to expand patent protection for patent holders by forcing infringers to show harm from a delay in the filing of an infringement action. “He pretty much established some bright-line rules,” Pasahow says, “which make it easier for the patent owners.” For his part, Dodson points to a long list of victories, going as far back as 1980, when he won a Virginia case that established the evidentiary record the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed in upholding the constitutionality of the Surface Mining Act of 1977. “You can see what motivates me,” he says. “I hate to lose.” That also applies to life away from work. A few years back, developers — backed by San Francisco city officials — were planning to build houses in the small untouched valley between Dodson’s Mediterranean-style house in the Richmond District and the adjacent Presidio. Lobos Creek, the city’s only remaining surface stream, flows through the gully, and the rugged Marin headlands are visible in the distance. It was a natural view Dodson didn’t want to lose. So he rallied neighbors and used his long-dormant knowledge of environmental law to pull in experts to put the developers on the defensive. They soon waved a white flag. “It was probably their worst nightmare to have me here,” Dodson says. “I knew how to fight them.”

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