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In 1994, the partners at Newark, N.J.’s Crummy, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione made two long-term strategic decisions. First, like many firms their size at the time, they realized they had to grow into a regional power to keep pace with their multistate and in-state rivals. Second, unlike most of the other big New Jersey firms, they decided to put a lot of their eggs into one fast-growing basket: intellectual property. That two-track vision has paid off. Not only has the firm’s size increased by three-quarters over the past eight years — including a growing New York office — but its IP practice has become the largest of any full-service firm in New Jersey. And both the IP group and the New York operation are about to get bigger. The eight-lawyer midtown Manhattan IP boutique of Cobrin & Gittes is now part of what becomes 180-lawyer Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione. The New York operation, which for now is two offices, as Cobrin & Gittes has just painted the new name on their door, is now up to 38 lawyers. In August, those offices will combine in new space at One Penn Plaza by Madison Square Garden, thereby connecting it to the Newark, N.J., office by train and indoor walkways. That space has capacity for 65 attorneys. The IP group is now 32 lawyers, with several more lawyers in the firm handling IP or related litigation, such as unfair competition matters. Going forward, the group is expected to account for up to a fifth of firm revenues, says managing partner David Sheehan. The acquired firm is headed by licensed patent attorneys Peter Cobrin and Marvin Gittes, friends from their days working as examiners at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C., and their nights at Georgetown Law School in the mid-1960s. About 75 percent of the Cobrin firm’s work is litigation, making Gibbons Del Deo even more of a litigation shop than it was. Cobrin, Gittes and their fellow partners, Richard Lehrer, David Denenberg and Robert Hess, come in as nonequity partners, while their trio of associates lateral over. Cobrin says he and Gittes had retained a consultant to search for a big, full-service firm to partner with. “We were looking for an opportunity to offer [new] clients our experience and expertise,” saying he anticipates that current Gibbons Del Deo clients who are not yet using the Newark firm for IP work in New York will now be more so inclined. Cobrin & Gittes had also held merger talks with McCarter & English of Newark, but IP practice group leader William Heller says a major conflict prevented a deal. “We parted friends, and I know those guys will do well with Gibbons,” he says. “They are excellent lawyers.” For Gibbons Del Deo, the move works on two synergy levels. “More and more of our clients are using us when they are in the New York courts, including the 2nd Circuit,” says Sheehan, and the extra litigation clout gives the firm new muscle in negotiating trademark, copyright and patent licensing battles. Adds partner David De Lorenzi, who heads the firm’s IP group: “Now that we have Cobrin & Gittes we’ll be stronger. Negotiations are only as strong as the hammer in your hand.” Cobrin and Gittes have many jury and bench trials under their belts and have handled appeals in the 2nd and 3rd Circuits and elsewhere. Sheehan says the addition “enhances our New York capabilities, where client demand for our services has grown significantly over the last several years. This is an importrant step in Gibbons’ continuing strategy to expand our intellectual property practice area and to build an even stronger presence in the northeast and national markets.” IP BOOM CONTINUES Intellectual property remains among the hottest of practices since it started taking off in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the high-tech and dot-com revolution. The mushrooming of the Internet alone has spawned myriad disputes as intellectual property and information became subject to legal protection, both proprietary and personal information. A new tort, Internet misappropriation, has evolved as a doctrine to protect property from confusion of source, where one company tries to capitalize on the brand, logo, name or color of another. One hint at how hot IP is: Premiums for IP malpractice insurance have soared, surpassing even those in securities law, primarily because damages for lost IP rights can be astronomical. In February, when the Administrative Office of the Courts for the U.S. Courts issued its annual case-management report, IP complaints in New Jersey were among those being filed at a disproportionately higher rate than nationally. That’s not surprising given the high number of high-tech, pharmaceutical, chemical, telecommunications, biotechnology and electronics companies in the Garden State. That’s the very market Gibbons Del Deo has been targeting, counting among its IP clients American Home Products, Aventis Pharmaceuticals, Lucent Technologies, Mitsubishi Electric, Sony of America and MCI Worldcom. “There are 28 pharmaceutical companies in the state,” says Sheehan, who also notes that the New York office began some eight years ago “when MCI Worldcom hired us as regional counsel.” De Lorenzi says the group offers a full range of patent, trademark, copyright, unfair competition, e-commerce, trade secret and computer and Internet law expertise in litigation, strategic licensing and transactional work, patent prosecution, clearance work, trademark and copyright registrations, opinion work, due diligence, IP audits and counseling. McCarter & English’s Heller agrees that the market remains hot. He says that the slowdown triggered by the dot-com and e-commerce bust has been supplanted by increased licensing by the larger, surviving companies who need to protect their IP assets and company value. Noting that McCarter & English’s IP practice has doubled over the past two years, and now counts 15 attorneys in the IP group, Heller points to several new growth areas, including protecting against those who try to break encryption codes and a host of issues related to information technology. “I agree with Dave [Sheehan] that IP work does create synergies,” says Heller, who also cites issues generated by the increased use by companies of Web sites to communicate with employees, and even real estate deals, where contracts include the wiring of buildings for the Internet and broadband capability. Richard Catalina Jr., who chairs the IP section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, agrees business is robust, saying that while IP work is not recession-proof, it has remained healthy. Sheehan goes further, saying it is recession-proof. “During good times companies aren’t looking at who might be infringing on their patents, trademarks or copyrights, but when things slow down they start going after people, and look to either stop them or usually to get a licensing agreement to create a new revenue stream,” he says. Sheehan says he sees the firm’s IP competition now coming less from in-state rivals and more from the larger IP houses in Manhattan, citing 175-lawyer Kenyon & Kenyon, 70-lawyer Darby & Darby, 80-lawyer Morgan & Finnegan and 150-lawyer Fish & Neave. All four firms have been around for more than a century and handle IP work exclusively. He says competition also comes from some of the multistate firms with big IP practices who have moved into New Jersey, in particular the Princeton offices of Boston’s Hale and Dorr, and the Pennsylvania firms of Dechert; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Buchanan Ingersoll. McCarter & English’s Heller agrees, but says he believes the big New Jersey firms have two advantages over both of those competitive camps: more experienced litigators and lower prices for the same or better quality. Competition in New Jersey comes not only from many full-service firms, including 14 of the state’s top 20 grossing firms who do IP work, but from Westfield’s Lerner, David, Littenberg, Krumholz & Mentlik, which has more than 35 licensed patent attorneys and is New Jersey’s premier IP boutique. For Peter Cobrin, the fit with Gibbons Del Deo was made easier by the fact that he knew Sheehan from litigation back in the early 1980s, during what was known as the “color wars” between generic drug makers and the big pharmaceutical firms whose drugs were coming off patent. Cobrin represented a generic battling to keep the same color for a pill that was no longer protected by patent. Sheehan represented the large firm trying to protect its years of marketing. Sheehan and De Lorenzi say they intend to continue growing the practrice. De Lorenzi says the firm has been using the “field of dreams” approach for years, saying, “If you build [the group], they will come.” And they have.

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