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For years, patent boutiques have been elbowed aside as general practice firms grabbed the big-ticket litigation. But earlier this month, Berkeley, Calif.’s Isbester & Associates showed it doesn’t take an army of lawyers to score a victory. The four-lawyer firm won a $95 million jury award for Advanced Medical Optics Inc. in its patent infringement suit against Alcon Manufacturing Ltd. The case, heard in Delaware federal court, focused on two patents covering equipment used in cataract surgery. A. James Isbester and his colleagues went up against litigation powerhouse Kirkland & Ellis. Isbester acknowledged that his opponents, led by Kirkland’s Robert Krupka, put on a formidable defense. “It sure felt like we were standing in front of a Mack truck going 60 miles per hour,” he said. A former partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Isbester put out his own shingle in 2002. He said he wanted to work with companies that need sophisticated legal services but can’t afford lawyers billing $700 per hour. Isbester said he bills $350 to $400 per hour. Isbester got the AMO assignment from AMO’s patent counsel, who was previously with Edwards Life Sciences, a former client of Isbester’s. Isbester was “the right attorney for us,” said AMO Assistant General Counsel Diane Biagianti. “He’s very intelligent, knows this area of the law and matches our style.” Krupka said the size of a firm doesn’t really matter. “It comes down to the quality of the lawyers and whether they act professionally,” he said. “Jamie is a quality guy and dealt with us in a quality fashion.” But Krupka hasn’t conceded defeat. The judge has yet to issue a decision on the amount of damages, which Krupka contends should only cover the period after AMO gave Alcon notice of infringement. If the judge agrees, Krupka said the jury award could be cut in half.

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