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Another established intellectual property boutique has decided to give up its independence and join a large, local full-service law firm, as Seidel Gonda Lavorgna & Monaco becomes part of Drinker Biddle & Reath, effective March 15. In the transaction, Seidel Gonda founder Arthur Seidel will become of counsel to Drinker while the remaining nine shareholders will become partners. All six of the Seidel Gonda associates as well as its entire professional staff are also expected to make the move. The deal gives Drinker its first registered patent attorneys — 11 in all — along with five trademark lawyers. Seidel, 77, considered the dean of the local IP bar, founded the firm in 1954. He declined to make himself available for comment, instead leaving the talking to firm vice president Gregory J. Lavorgna. At the time of a similar merger a little more than 18 months ago, Seidel expressed reservations about joining forces with a large firm. “We’ve rejected a lot of offers,” he said then. “I just don’t think large law firms understand it, and we believe strongly that IP does not fit well into the large-firm environment. And with things the way they are now, we’re constantly being raided. But we’re still doing exceptionally well, and I think we’re going to keep things the way they are.” But Lavorgna said the firm had a change of heart soon after receiving a call from Drinker business and finance department chair Jack Michel roughly a year ago. Talks between the two sides have continued off and on ever since, becoming serious over the past six months. “We’ve received a lot of offers over the years, but we always turned them down,” Lavorgna said. “Those firms would talk about their interest in getting bigger or having an IP practice. But Jack was able to communicate a vision about where he saw the IP practice down the road. This was not a ‘me, too’ acquisition for Drinker. They knew what they wanted out of an IP practice, and we liked where we fit into that plan.” From Drinker’s perspective, there were four main reasons for its interest in the Seidel firm: Adding five trademark lawyers to the firm’s existing stable gives it representation of clients with over 2,000 registered trademarks across the globe, almost doubling its previous number. The move beefs up the firm’s IP litigation capabilities, as all 16 Seidel lawyers and two patent agents can litigate cases. With the addition of one of the more prestigious local IP firms, Drinker chairman James Sweet said the firm has immediately become a “major player” in the IP practice area. Having Arthur Seidel come with the package was “critical” to the deal’s completion, Michel said, because of his reputation, skills and experience. Drinker had nine IP lawyers — three partners — who handle trademark and copyright work as well as a licensing practice that includes both corporate lawyers and litigators. Sweet said the firm mapped out a plan that identified the need to have about 30 IP lawyers before it felt it could consider it a full-service practice. “When I took over as chairman last summer, I identified IP as job one,” Sweet said. “And we were lucky enough to get the chance to fill that need with the Seidel firm.” Michel said the merger will help the firm in its recruiting efforts — from an entry level and lateral perspective. To prove the point, he told the story of a 1999 Drinker summer associate who made the decision to join an Atlanta firm because it had superior IP capabilities. Michel said he received a call from the same associate a few weeks back because she was looking to relocate to Philadelphia. This time, though, he was able to lure her in with the Seidel addition. Making the move with Seidel and Lavorgna are partners Robert E. Cannuscio, Joseph R. DelMaster Jr., Thomas J. Durling, Nancy A. Rubner-Frandsen, John J. Marshall, Stephen J. Meyers, Daniel A. Monaco and Harriet E. Perkins as well as associates Gregory J. Burke, John C. Donch, Susan F. Evans, Steven A. Nash, Cheryl L. Slipski and Michael F. Snyder. U.S. Patent agents Paul Carango and Henry N. Blanco White are also included in the group. Seidel Gonda’s lease at 2 Penn Center in Philadelphia runs out in November, but Lavorgna said the firm plans to move into Drinker’s 2 Logan Square offices, also in Philadelphia, in March or April. The Seidel-Drinker union is the second Philadelphia example of an IP boutique joining a large firm in the past two years. In July 1999, 28-attorney Panitch Schwarze Jacobs & Nadel — an offshoot of Seidel Gonda — merged into Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. And just last year, Woodcock Washburn Kurtz Mackiewicz & Norris flirted with joining Dechert before deciding to stay on its own. Sources in the Philadelphia IP bar said the move was most likely sparked by Arthur Seidel’s eventual retirement, which they presume will not be too far off in the future. “This is not surprising to me because Arthur is phasing himself out, and he has always been the driving force behind that firm,” one IP lawyer said. “Don’t get me wrong, that firm has a lot of good lawyers. But with Arthur getting toward the end of his career, it’s probably as good a time any to do something like this.” Aside from the 75-attorney Woodcock Washburn, there are few sizable IP boutiques remaining in the Philadelphia area. Caesar Rivise Bernstein Cohen & Pokotilow, a 19-attorney boutique, is still going strong. Managing partner Manny Pokotilow said he and his partners are “still having too much fun” practicing on their own to merge with a large firm. And King of Prussia’s Ratner & Prestia, which has 27 attorneys, has continued to grow gradually.

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