Five years ago, Thomas Friel Jr. would have been the last to admit he was working for patent-holding companies. Like most Silicon Valley attorneys with a large base of tech clients, Friel feared the stigma attached to entities that collect patents for licensing purposes — often derided as patent trolls, patent terrorists and extortionists.

“Like Rodney Dangerfield, IP holding companies got no respect,” said Friel, head of Cooley Godward’s San Francisco Bay Area patent litigation practice. “They were spurned by legitimate producers of goods and services, and no one wanted to deal with them — especially large law firms that didn’t want to alienate their corporate clients.”