Name: Terence Ross
Firm: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher
Biggest Case: Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive v. The Gator Corp.
J.D.: University of Virginia
Career Goal (as a kid): Perry Mason
Terence Ross is “a bulldog, but there’s no drool,” according to Peter Baumbusch, Ross’ partner at Los Angeles’ Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. These days Ross, who works in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, is directing his bark at The Gator Corp., an Internet company responsible for many of those annoying pop-up ads. He is suing the company on behalf of a coalition of big-name media clients, including Dow Jones & Co. Inc., The Washington Post Co., and The New York Times Co.
Gator offers free software that assists online consumers by automatically filling in billing and personal information. But the Gator software is a Trojan horse. It comes bundled with “OfferCompanion,” a program that causes unaffiliated ads to pop up directly on top of Web sites that the consumer is trying to view — sites like the ones operated by all those media companies. When that happens, the Web site owner and the consumer have officially been “gatored.”
If Ross gets his way, they may never get gatored again. In July, he convinced a federal court in Virginia to issue a preliminary injunction against Gator on trademark and copyright infringement grounds. Ross expects the case to go to trial by early 2003. He fought a similar battle last year in federal court in New York, winning a permanent injunction from DietWatch.com Inc., which had been gatoring his client, Weightwatchers.Com Inc.
Those two injunctions are far from Ross’s only victories. He has first-chaired more than 20 other jury and bench trials, prevailing in all except one shareholder dustup in Delaware chancery court. “That will teach me to try a non-IP case,” says Ross. Notwithstanding that case, Ross devotes almost all his time to IP work. He estimates that his wins have been worth more than $500 million to his clients.
In 1998 Ross fought back America Online Inc.’s claim to a common law trademark in the phrase “You Have Mail.” Ross’s client, AT&T Corp., had been using the phrase on its WorldNet service. Last year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed most of the decision. And in 1999 Ross won a jury verdict in Virginia federal court for Entrust Inc., invalidating Surety Technologies Inc.’s patent on the digital time-stamping of e-documents.
Baumbusch, who is a member of Gibson Dunn’s executive committee and a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, attributes Ross’ courtroom success to intellect, broad litigation experience, and that fierce but mannered bulldog style.
Cliff Sloan, general counsel of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co., one of the plaintiffs in the Gator case, says Ross knows how to keep it simple. “He is gifted at stripping away the false complexity that others often use to obscure issues in technology cases,” says Sloan.
In racking up all those victories, Ross routinely manages case budgets of up to $10 million. Want to understand the calculus that intellectual property owners go through when they write a case budget? It’s found in Chapter 8 of “Intellectual Property Law: Damages and Remedies,” whose editor and principal author is Terence Ross.
When not fighting e-villains, Ross battles Democrats around his hometown of Arlington, Va., as an unpaid campaign manager for Republican candidates in local and statewide elections. In the Bush/Gore presidential election litigation, he led the Bush brief-writing team for former Gibson Dunn partner Ted Olson, who is now U.S. solicitor general. Ross pushed hard for the equal protection argument that eventually carried the day for Bush in the U. S. Supreme Court. He is also a member of the board of visitors — the trustees — of the University of Virginia, where he took some heat for investigating the constitutionality of the school’s point-based affirmative action admissions policy. The school eventually changed the policy.
All in a day’s work for a well-mannered bulldog.