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Law firms go to great lengths to protect the intellectual property of their clients. But a firm has to consider its own most valuable asset — its name — as well. Since 1995, law firms across the country have rushed to register their names as trademarks. However, the trend has been slow to take off in Atlanta, where, for example, only four of the firms in last year’s Daily Report Dozen have registered trademarks, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site. Another five have registered only their logos or slogans as trademarks. The firms that have registered their names are Alston & Bird; Kilpatrick Stockton; Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart; and Troutman Sanders. Fisher & Phillips has registered a logo, and Morris, Manning & Martin; Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy; Smith Gambrell & Russell; Fisher & Phillips; and Arnall Golden Gregory have registered slogans. Kilpatrick Stockton partner Anthony B. Askew says law firm names are valuable assets. Failing to register a name, he says, is the same as failing to protect any other intangible asset like a lease or partnership agreement. Askew says it’s unlikely that lawyers will copy another firm’s name. But he adds in case that’s ever done, it’s important to have registered a firm name to prevent confusion to the public. The Kilpatrick firm registered its name in 1998, according to the USPTO Web site. Askew notes that his old firm, the defunct Jones & Askew, also registered its name. Law firm names acquire distinctiveness, Askew says, so it behooves a firm to register and protect it. Firms that register their names are building on and protecting that distinctiveness, he notes, and that’s the general principle of trademark law. Those who haven’t followed the line to the trademark office believe that whatever legal protection they gain comes at the expense of a firm’s comportment. Needle & Rosenberg, one of Atlanta’s few remaining IP boutiques, is one of those that have chosen not to register a name. “In reality, lawyers haven’t thought of themselves as products like toothpaste,” says name partner Sumner C. Rosenberg. Rosenberg notes that the firm has registered its business logo. But it has not registered the firm name, he says, because it’s unlikely that someone else would try to establish a law firm with the same name. Atlanta-based Kritzer & Levick — formerly Altman, Kritzer & Levick — wasn’t concerned that someone would take its name, but it did want to protect its AK&L logo. So, prior to name partner Allen D. Altman’s departure in February, the firm registered it. According to the USPTO, the firm filed for registration in 1999. The USPTO granted registration last year. Joseph D. Wargo, an IP partner at Kritzer & Levick, says the firm registered the trademark in part to protect its instant recognition by clients. Askew says firms acquire common law rights even if they don’t register their names. That might explain why some of Atlanta’s larger firms — such as King & Spalding and Powell Goldstein Frazer & Murphy — haven’t registered. According to The American Lawyer, the number of trademark registrations among The AmLaw 200 only reached double digits once, in 1990. In 1995, members of The AmLaw 200 filed 46 trademark applications for their names, logos, services and slogans. Except for 1997, there have been more AmLaw 200 applications each year since 1995. In 2000, about 150 firms in the AmLaw 200 had applied for U.S. trademarks. DUANE MORRIS CREATES CONSULTING SUBSIDIARY Philadelphia-based Duane, Morris & Heckscher has become the latest law firm to jump on the consulting bandwagon. The firm has formed a subsidiary — Wescott Strategic Management — in the same city to provide crisis management and restructuring advice for businesses. Donald R. Harkleroad, partner in Duane Morris’ five-lawyer Atlanta office, says, “In the modern world, law firms are becoming more narrow relative to the full field of professional services. In order to stay in the game, they need to do this.” Last year, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice spun off its ancillary services group into a limited partnership called FirmLogic, with about 275 employees. FirmLogic includes some of Womble’s former support staff plus medical experts and engineers to act as trial consultants. The limited partnership provides document coding and litigation support services for Womble, as well as other firms and corporate legal departments. Morris, Manning & Martin also launched a consulting subsidiary last year. The subset of its technology practice, eFacilitator, evaluates the financial and operational needs of startup clients and matches them with sources of funding, management and professional services. In January 2000, Holland & Knight created Holland & Knight Strategic Business Solutions, a consulting subsidiary, to provide marketing services to clients, particularly Internet startups. In 1999, Powell Goldstein created a practice area called Eagle Partners, which combines specialties such as intellectual property, employee relations and real estate to serve high-growth clients. The team offers legal services and attempts to connect clients with venture capitalists.

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