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Name: John Desmarais Age: 38 Firm: Kirkland & Ellis Biggest Case: Rambus v. Infineon J.D.: New York University Career Goal (as a kid): construction worker John Desmarais had a career year in 2001. The partner at the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis won three major IP cases and billed more than 3,000 hours. “Three federal trials back-to-back was tough,” he says. “Thank God I won them all, or it would have been really bad,” he says. In May, a jury in Virginia awarded Desmarais’ client, Infineon Technologies A.G., $3.5 million in a fraud claim against Rambus Inc. Rambus, a licensing company, had already made deals with most of the semiconductor industry, but Desmarais thought he had a winning case. Infineon filed the fraud counterclaim after Rambus sued the company for patent infringement on memory chip patents. Earlier, Desmarais had persuaded the court to dismiss all of the Rambus patent claims. Following the jury decision, the court ordered Rambus to pay Infineon’s attorney fees (about $7 million) and entered an injunction against Rambus from suing Infineon again over particular product lines. In June, Desmarais won a $1.1 million verdict for Hermes International, the luxury goods retailer, in its suit against a company that had copied Hermes handbag designs. Desmarais had to overcome a strong laches argument that Hermes had allowed the infringement to occur for decades. As the year drew to a close in December, Desmarais successfully defended two patent infringement claims against AllTel Corp., Verizon and other cellular service providers. MLMC Ltd. was seeking $700 million in damages and an injunction. Before the trial began, Judge Sue Robinson of the District of Delaware summarily dismissed one infringement claim. A jury invalidated MLMC’s other patent and found no infringement. Desmarais is simply “the best patent litigator I’ve ever seen,” says Brian Riopelle, a partner in the Richmond, Va., office of McGuire Woods who worked with Desmarais on the Rambus case. Riopelle says that in the courtroom Desmarais’s entire presentation “is geared toward communicating with the jury, not at them.” It’s like he’s having a conversation with them, he says. During the trial Desmarais used low-tech devices that allowed him to move away from the podium and make eye contact with the jury. “If he sees the jury doesn’t understand something, he makes sure he explains it well,” says Riopelle. “He teaches them.” “Jurors like John,” says Josy Ingersoll, a partner at Wilmington, Del.’s Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, who has worked as local counsel for Desmarais in several trials, including the Verizon case. During one case, she says, a juror followed Ingersoll out of court after a verdict was issued to tell her that all the jurors “loved John.” Ingersoll says: “I remember a time he was going on too long at the end of a closing argument, the judge told him time was up and he said, ‘Oh, but I have so much more to say your honor.’ The jury just laughed.” Desmarais believes — and his colleagues agree — that his three-year stint in the U.S. Attorney’s Office was the key to his development as a trial lawyer. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York, Desmarais first-chaired 12 jury trials and one bench trial. “My second trial was an acquittal,” he says. “All the rest were convictions.” “I learned how to deal with jurors. I became very familiar with the federal rules of evidence and the application of the rules to trial work,” he adds. “If you work for a firm right out of law school it’s hard to get contact with the court system. I was in court every day. I would be carrying 100 to 200 cases at any one time. It was like being an intern or a resident at a hospital.” Desmarais came to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1991 from Fish & Neave, which he joined after receiving his law degree from New York University School of Law in 1988. He returned to the firm in 1995 ready for more complex patent litigation work. Back at the firm Desmarais was back in the second chair. “It was going to stay that way a long time. It would be another 15 years before I could be first chair,” he says. When Kirkland & Ellis approached him five years ago to join that firm, he decided to move. He realized, he says, “if I go to Kirkland, I can be first chair right now.” He got his chance quickly when Lucent Technologies Inc. sued Newbridge Networks Corp. over five data-networking patents. Desmarais won the case at trial in 1999; the judge found Newbridge’s infringement to be “willful,” awarded attorney fees, and enhanced the award to $21 million. The parties then settled. Desmarais seems happy about all his wins, but he’d rather not litigate three major trials in one year again. A “nice, healthy 2,000 hour year is what I’m looking for,” he says.

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