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Los Angeles’ Peter M. Eichler was into trademarks when trademarks weren’t cool. “I consider myself an international business lawyer who got into trademark law 40 years ago by accident,” he says, rocking back in a chrome-and-black-leather chair, exposing his familiar red socks. It may have taken decades for all the trends to come together: the big studios deciding to tie merchandising campaigns to film properties, the giant law firms realizing the economic significance of trademarks and patents — but now, from a skyscraper window in Crosby Heafey Roach & May’s offices overlooking Century City, Calif., Eichler, at 65, is in the catbird seat. He’s the man who tells dictionaries to redraft their definition of Technicolor, and the dictionaries comply. He has protected Star Wars, Tarzan, Barbie, Woody Woodpecker, Star Trek, Zorro and the United States Football League from international pirates.He set up the network of franchises that introduced Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookies to Southeast Asia. “I really miss Famous Amos,” he says, recalling how Wally Amos lugged trash bags full of warm cookies into his office.”I used to be thin,” he adds, not very convincingly. A native of Jersey City, N.J., Eichler is a Wesleyan University graduate who chose Columbia University Law School because of its reputation for international studies.His first job was at a business law firm in New York, where he represented Hanna-Barbera, a cartoon merchandising pioneer. That was the client that brought him to Los Angeles in 1969. Unlike many of his generation, Eichler didn’t settle in at one firm. He helped found Cooper, Epstein and Hurewitz and was a partner in the Los Angeles office of Cleveland’s Baker & Hostetler; Los Angeles’ Jeffer, Mangels, Butler & Marmaro; and the late Troop Steuber. Since joining Oakland, Calif.-based Crosby Heafey this spring, he talks as if he has come home. He is firmwide head of the trademark department within the firm’s IP division. His speech, which sounds as if he couldn’t hem or haw if he wanted to, becomes even firmer and faster when he describes the opportunities for cross-selling. Many of the lawyers have clients whose product protection has been ignored or has been farmed out to other firms, and he is confident that he can exploit it. At the same time, he is spinning off “a quantity” of work for Crosby Heafey’s IP litigators. NEED FOR COMBAT Eichler describes his work as mainly counseling, along with drafting correspondence and agreements. He says he “needs a little combat” and gets it in the context of cases that are important without entailing life-or-death decisions. “It keeps the stress down. There’s an average of two big crises a day,” he estimates, “and I can solve both with a letter.” He prides himself in the instincts he has developed and enjoys recounting how he lobbied 20th Century Fox in the weeks before the first “Star Wars” premiere to get the rights on file in foreign capitals. Other cash cows are less obvious, he says, pointing to a stuffed “Alf” doll sitting on his office shelf. The character starred in a 1986 TV series that remains in international syndication to this day. “The merchandising has been incredible. Royalties from Germany alone? $10 million in one year,” he says. Eichler bills 1,500 to 1,800 hours a year, he says, “at $450 an hour” and expends 1,000 hours more in marketing and promotions. And he travels a great deal. “France is my favorite place — I suppose we’ve been there 20 times.” When interviewing with Crosby Heafey earlier this year, Eichler’s threshold question was whether he would be forced to retire at some point. “Those that didn’t agree unequivocally that I could stay as long as the partners considered me competent, and be paid accordingly, got a pass,” he says. “I’ll have to be carried out.”

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