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Peter McCabe litigates many complex patent cases, but he does not have the scientific and technology training of a patent lawyer. In fact, McCabe, a partner at Chicago’s Winston & Strawn, acknowledges that a tough organic chemistry course at Harvard dashed his early ambitions to go to medical school. But even without a strong science background, McCabe’s been winning some big-time patent cases. In his latest victory, he represented Syndia Corp., a Chicago company that mainly exists to enforce and license its patent portfolio, in a court battle with Gillette Co. Syndia was founded in 1984 by Northwestern University Professor James Conley, controversial inventor Jerome Lemelson, and entrepreneur Roger Hickey. The company’s 30 patents, licensed to Syndia by Lemelson, cover the technology for creating artificial diamonds and their use as coatings for metal. Syndia sued Gillette in April 2001, saying that Gillette’s Mach 3, Mach 3 Turbo, and Venus razors all infringed its patents. The razors have ultrathin blades coated with a diamond-like substance. The case went to trial in early May in federal court in Chicago. In June, the jury found that Gillette had infringed two of four Syndia patents, and awarded McCabe’s client $10 million. Post-trial motions are now under review. Syndia’s tactics are similar to that employed by lawyers representing the Lemelson Foundation (the now-deceased inventor’s litigation and charity organization): persuade manufacturers in various industry segments to take a license or risk being sued for infringement. Where will Syndia go next? “There are a number of industries we’re looking at, including chip manufacturing and [industrial] toolmaking,” says McCabe. Although the Gillette patent battle was over a relatively mundane product — razor blades — McCabe says the technology was complex and difficult to learn. It covered “an enormous breadth of subjects that the lawyers must be on top of,” he says. Not a problem for McCabe. Though he dropped his premed studies, he still retained his interest in science. McCabe graduated from Harvard in 1982 with an economics major. And after receiving his law degree from Indiana University in 1985, he headed directly to Winston & Strawn to return to his roots. McCabe, a fourth-generation Chicagoan, grew up on the city’s North Shore. His great-grandfather, a lawyer, represented retailer A. Montgomery Ward in his successful attempt to keep part of Chicago’s lakefront undeveloped. McCabe knew when he started at Winston & Strawn that he wanted to be a litigator. In his first years, he did a lot of medical malpractice defense, and he found that it gave him invaluable training. In 1993 senior partner Edward Foote asked McCabe to work on a patent case involving dental implants. The young litigator loved it. “I found the work incredibly challenging and interesting and have stuck with it ever since,” he says. The dispute, which was tried in federal court in Chicago, was a “Walker Process” case in which an accused patent infringer countersues the plaintiff for trying to monopolize a market segment. McCabe argued that the plaintiff, Nobelpharma AB, was suing his client, Implant Innovations, for infringing a patent that was clearly invalid. The inventor had published information about the technology in question two years before filing for a patent. “We won in front of a jury and [were] affirmed by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit,” says McCabe. “This was, I believe, the last Walker Process claim to be affirmed by the Federal Circuit.” Although Syndia was the plaintiff in the Gillette case, much of the time McCabe represents defendants. Being defense counsel is harder, he says. “The Patent Office seems to be one of the few institutions of the federal government that regular people have [a lot] of faith in. It is difficult to have a jury second-guess the Patent Office and declare a patent invalid.” McCabe says his courtroom techniques come in handy when he’s coaching his 10-year-old daughter’s soccer team. “It would be completely and entirely useless to use yelling and screaming as a coaching tool,” he says. “While I am a bit more aggressive in the courtroom than I am with the young ladies, I am not a yeller there either.”

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