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Lateral moves are often filled with irony. Intellectual property lawyer Robert Koons’ joining Drinker Biddle & Reath this month after being conflicted out of Buchanan Ingersoll is one of those occasions. When troubled Virginia-based intellectual property boutique Burns Doane Swecker & Mathis was looking to merge its 57-attorney firm into a general practice firm, two of the finalists were Buchanan Ingersoll and Drinker Biddle & Reath. Buchanan Ingersoll won the bidding war. In the process, that put Koons in an awkward position, being that one of his core clients, Sunoco, was a chief competitor of one of Burns Doane’s core clients, Chevron. So Koons, who led an eight-lawyer lateral group in joining Buchanan Ingersoll in February 2002 and was co-chairman of its firmwide IP practice, left the firm with three associates and has spent more than a month surveying the legal landscape in Philadelphia. Koons worked out a temporary arrangement with Buchanan Ingersoll where he would work out of the firm’s offices under the name of Robert Koons & Associates until he found a new professional home. After a story appeared in The Legal outlining the reasons for his departure, Koons said he received phone calls from numerous legal recruiters and law firms. He said he didn’t need the services of a recruiter as he entertained offers from three types of firm — Philadelphia-based, larger general practice firms; Philadelphia-based IP boutiques; and national firms with Philadelphia offices. Koons said because he had spent his entire career and built his patent prosecution practice at large local firms — Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Pepper Hamilton and Buchanan Ingersoll — he felt most comfortable in that environment. He said such firms also provide him access to large clients. Though sources said he had serious discussions with Woodcock Washburn, Koons said he narrowed his choices down to two general practice firms, ultimately selecting Drinker Biddle. Koons said he has known Drinker Biddle IP practice chairman Gregory Lavorgna for years and was impressed with the firm’s client base and the size of its patent practice — which at 40 lawyers is only exceeded in size by 85-attorney Woodcock Washburn. Jack Michel, Drinker Biddle’s business department chairman, said there is significant client overlap between the firm and Koons, who brings with him the aforementioned three associates — Dean Flores, Matthew McWilliams and Gary Mangels. Michel and Koons both said they expect most, if not all, of Koons’ clients to make the move with him. Lavorgna said the firm was pleased to have a partner with experience in the chemical arena, though most of Koons’ practice is geared toward mechanical engineering. Drinker Biddle has added six IP partners during this calendar year, including three in Philadelphia. Koons joins two recent lateral additions in Philadelphia — Dilworth Paxson intellectual property chairwoman Evelyn H. McConathy and Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner Kathryn Doyle. In the spring, John Smith, an intellectual property partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Morgan Lewis, also moved to Drinker Biddle. And Michel said he believes the firm will make another significant announcement about a lateral addition next month. Drinker Biddle first began to grow a patent practice in 2001, when it acquired 17-lawyer IP boutique Seidel Gonda Lavorgna & Monaco. The IP practice group has grown from 35 lawyers to 49 lawyers since late December. That includes a trademark and copyright practice based in Washington. Michel said only a third of the patent lawyers handle litigation matters, while the rest are picked up by Drinker Biddle’s cadre of commercial litigators. When asked about Burns Doane, Michel admitted Drinker Biddle made a play for the IP boutique, which had been bleeding lawyers and clients in recent years. “We made an offer with a number of contingencies,” Michel said. “I don’t know how close we were because the offer was ultimately rejected and they went with Buchanan.” Charles Bruton, the commercial litigation partner who made the lateral move from Pepper Hamilton three years ago, will stay at Buchanan Ingersoll. The two lawyers have marketed themselves as having the experience of a registered patent attorney in Koons to handle patent prosecution work, and a seasoned trial lawyer to handle patent litigation. But Koons has said the conflict dilemma did not apply to Bruton, who has built on his strong practice at Buchanan Ingersoll and will be able to capitalize on linking up with the Burns Doane lawyers. In addition, Koons said most of the firms with whom he spoke have their own litigators who would want to feed off Koons’ technical expertise and client contacts. Koons was an engineer for nine years before deciding to pursue a law degree from Temple University School of Law in 1983. Directly after graduation, he joined Schnader Harrison, where he was assigned to work on commercial litigation matters with legendary taskmaster Irving “Buddy” Segal as well as with Bruton. That all changed in 1985 when Koons decided to take the patent bar and switch the focus of his practice toward IP work. He eventually went on to become the practice group leader. In 1998, Koons moved to Pepper Hamilton, where he was reunited with his old friend Bruton. Koons began asking Bruton for help with potential litigation matters concerning his clients. Koons is a registered patent attorney who largely handles the prosecution of patents and trademarks before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and all related counseling, licensing and transactional matters. During his career, he has represented numerous American and foreign companies in a wide variety of intellectual property matters. Additionally, Koons holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which he earned in 2001. Buchanan Ingersoll management has said the firm would like to replace Koons in Philadelphia, where it now does not have any registered patent attorneys. But firm CEO Thomas VanKirk has said Buchanan Ingersoll will wait for the right opportunity and has some flexibility since it just added such a sizable IP group.

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