Despite a declining volume of new patent litigation in the U.S., intellectual property powerhouse Fish & Richardson managed to increase gross revenue in 2018 to nearly $431 million, while profits per equity partner grew by more than 7.2 percent to just under $1.75 million.
Fish posted a 3.4 percent growth in top-line revenue in 2018, bringing its total to $430,86 million, up from $416.78 million in 2017, according to ALM data.
Revenue per lawyer reached $1.21 million, up 1.3 percent from 2017, amid a 2 percent increase in head count to 356 lawyers.
Fish’s partnership grew 3.9 percent, with 105 equity partners in 2018. Those partners shared a larger profits pie, with net income up 11.4 percent in 2018 to $183.67 million. The firm also added three nonequity partners, bringing that roster up to 66 partners.
Fish President and CEO Peter Devlin said the firm’s financial results continue a streak of record figures over the past few years, even as the number of newly filed patent lawsuits has dropped over the same period.
Devlin said the firm has maintained active IP practices that go beyond traditional patent litigation, citing Patent and Appeal Board post-grant review cases and transactional work in which the firm advises startups and other companies on developing and protecting their IP portfolios.
With respect to the PTAB work, Devlin said that Fish is closing in on its 1,000th appearance in front of the board, which was created as part of a set of patent reforms in the 2011 America Invents Act.
Devlin also credited Fish’s keen focus on reining in expenses. The firm typically seeks to keep any year-over-year growth in expenses to about 2 percent, he said.
“Our business has really been on the upswing. It’s driven by revenue and very disciplined management of our expenses,” Devlin said. “Although IP litigation has been trending down, year-over-year, our business has been growing, and I think that’s a direct reflection of our strength and brand.”
Devlin noted that the firm’s life sciences work, both in litigation and transactions, was particularly busy throughout the year. The firm’s founding office in Boston is still its largest, said Devlin, pointing out that the city has become a hotbed for life sciences and biotechnology companies.
The firm’s transactional work often involves helping startups and other clients develop and manage their portfolio of patents and other IP. Devlin said Fish has been advising cancer therapy developer Loxo Oncology Inc. in connection with its worldwide patent strategy for several years, work that helped prepare the company for an early 2019 acquisition by Eli Lilly & Co. valued at about $8 billion. Fish also advises San Diego-based Samumed, which has made waves in the life sciences sector for its work on potential anti-aging therapies.
On the litigation side, the firm secured a number of positive results for clients in 2018. Among those was a successful defense of Gilead Sciences Inc. in a patent infringement action brought by Idenix Pharmaceuticals LLC related to hepatitis C drugs. After Idenix secured a $2.5 billion verdict from a jury that found Gilead liable for willful patent infringement, Fish convinced a federal district judge to declare Idenix’s patent invalid, effectively wiping out the damages award.
Separately, Fish guided Gilead to a win against Merck & Co. Inc. following another adverse jury verdict. At a federal district court in 2016, Fish successfully vacated a $200 million verdict against Gilead. The firm followed that with an affirmance at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which in July awarded Gilead $14 million in attorney fees.