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When patent prosecutors Micheal Schwegman, Steven Lundberg, Warren Woessner, and Daniel Kluth, left Minneapolis’ Merchant & Gould in 1993, the ratio of prosecutors to litigators at the firm was 1:1, but all was not harmonious. “There was a lot of tension with the litigation group,” says Woessner, “They felt they were more profitable and that litigation was more prestigious then patent-application work. It had become increasingly difficult to grow a prosecution practice because associates would get pulled off our work to go into litigation.” So, Schwegman, 58, Lundberg, 47, Woessner, 58, and Kluth, 46, left the firm and founded Minneapolis’ Schwegman, Lundberg, Woessner & Kluth. Today the 50-lawyer practice does work for some of Merchant & Gould’s biggest clients, including Cray Research, the University of Minnesota and the University of Iowa. And according to Patent Ratings LLC.’s, Schwegman Lundberg prosecuted many of the highest-quality patents issued in 2002. Patent Ratings ranked the firm first in the biotech, computer and medical fields, second in electrical, and third in chemical [see chart]. The firm edged out many long-time patent powerhouses such as New York’s Fish & Neave and Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto; Los Angeles’ Blakely, Sokoloff, Taylor & Zafman; Philadelphia’s Woodcock Washburn; and Chicago’s Brinks, Hofer, Gilson & Leone. Merchant & Gould didn’t make the list, but the firm doesn’t mourn the loss of Schwegman, et al. “The firm is better off over the long haul,” says D. Randall King, Merchant & Gould’s managing director “They wanted to do their own thing and have prospered. However, those of us who stayed realized the value of being a full-service IP firm with prosecution and litigation types working together.” The founding partners say the firm’s focus on prosecution work probably led to the high ranking. Lundberg says his firm is like “a clinic that does only heart transplants.” The firm also writes “almost everything from scratch,” Woessner says. It doesn’t translate and file many overseas patents, as some other patent shops do. Also, unlike other small firms, Schwegman Lundberg generally charges by the hour. Another difference: Schwegman Lundberg doesn’t recruit out of law schools. “We don’t find that works for us,” says Lundberg. “Most of the folks in law school want to be litigators, so we end up with a retention problem.” “We have very highly trained people with backgrounds in law and industry,” says Schwegman. He speculates that those who have worked in industry before becoming patent lawyers aren’t so quick to be drawn to litigation. The founders know this from experience. Both Schwegman and Lundberg worked at Honeywell Inc. while attending law school at night at William Mitchell College of Law. Schwegman was a patent agent, and Lundberg designed electronic and software systems for the giant manufacturing company. Name partner Woessner has a Ph.D. in organic chemistry, and before he was a patent lawyer, did drug research for Miles Laboratories. Kluth spent seven years as a computer design engineer for Sperry Corp. The firm boasts a blue-chip client list, including Lundberg and Schwegman’s former employer Honeywell. Other high-tech clients in the electrical/computer area include Intel Inc., Silicon Graphics Inc., Cray Computers Inc., Apple Computer Inc., and Micron Inc. Guidant/Cardiac Pacemakers Inc., Atrix Inc., Cornell University, Phonar Inc. and LecTec Inc. bring their medical-device patent work to the firm. Chemical and biotech clients include the Universities of Minnesota, Iowa, and California, Celltech Inc., Affymetrix Inc., NeoRx Inc., Roche Biosciences Inc. and MGI Pharma Inc. The firm does a little bit of copyright work for some software clients, and also does patent-opinion work, but the core practice area is patent prosecution. The firm does have an engineering culture, but it’s not techno-nerd city, insists Lundberg. “We are engineers with salesmen’s dispositions,” he says.

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