In early 2003 Jeffrey Kindler, Pfizer Inc.’s vice-chairman and general counsel, had a big problem — and what seemed, on first glance, a baffling solution. Pfizer was facing what Kindler calls “the most significant patent case” in the company’s century-and-a-half history — a challenge to the key patents on its blockbuster cholesterol-busting drug, Lipitor. Estimated to account for about 30 percent of Pfizer’s profits, Lipitor took in $12.2 billion in 2005. And while it was Pfizer that had brought the case — a patent infringement suit to keep India-based Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. from marketing generic Lipitor — it became clear early on that Pfizer would be the one playing defense, with Ranbaxy throwing practically every patent challenge in the book at it.

To face that challenge, Kindler did not choose one of the big-name, mega-lawyer firms in its stable of outside counsel. Instead, he went with Wilmington, Del.-based Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz — a relatively small IP firm that only two years earlier numbered less than 50 lawyers (today it has 95) and had just recently opened its first satellite office in Washington, D.C.

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