Scott Mckeown

Scott McKeown, a prominent patent lawyer and blogger, has decamped from IP boutique Oblon, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt to take charge of Ropes & Gray’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board practice.

McKeown is an active litigator of inter partes review (IPR) and other post-grant proceedings that were launched five years ago by the America Invents Act. McKeown filed Google’s IPRs challenging the Rockstar Consortium patents (the cases settled) and has represented eBay, PayPal, Square and others before the board. All told he says he has personally handled 150 proceedings before the PTAB since 2012.

McKeown fills a position once held by Steven Baughman, who left Ropes in January to launch the PTAB practice at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. McKeown said he couldn’t speak to Baughman’s reasons for leaving, “but I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity he created.”

Richard McCaulley, the chair of Ropes & Gray’s IP practice, said McKeown’s experience with post-grant proceedings will be an asset for the firm’s clients. “Scott is recognized as a thought leader in this space, and has been from the inception of the PTAB,” McCaulley said in a written statement.

McKeown said in a telephone interview that his move reflects a business trend: As PTAB trials have become a more entrenched part of patent litigation, “clients are looking for more sophistication on both ends of the dispute,” McKeown said. That increasingly means big, global law firms like 1,160-lawyer Ropes, he said. An electrical engineer by training, McKeown represents a lot of high-tech clients, so Ropes & Gray’s presence in Silicon Valley and Asia also appealed.

There’s one potential storm cloud on the horizon for PTAB litigation. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in May to hear a constitutional challenge to the IPR process. McKeown said he believes the chance that the Supreme Court will do away with IPRs is low. But if it happens, “the other shoe that will drop is that patent litigation in this country will explode.” Ropes and other big IP practices will have plenty of litigation to go around in that scenario, he said.

Monday was McKeown’s last day at 80-lawyer, Alexandria, Virginia-based Oblon. His former firm announced that partner W. Todd Baker will take over Oblon’s post-grant practice group. “Todd’s brand is well-known, and he has been integral to Oblon’s early dominance and continued growth in inter partes review proceedings,” Oblon managing partner Brad Lytle said in a statement posted on the firm’s website.

McKeown, who said his practice is split about 50-50 between petitioners and patent owners, said he and Oblon are still working out details over the Patents Post-Grant blog that McKeown mostly authored. He said he expects the blog to follow him to Ropes, where it will be rebranded.

Both firms have strong track records at the PTAB. Unified Patents’ Institutional Success Index of the top 25 PTAB firms ranks Ropes & Gray third for petitioners and sixth for patent owners. Oblon was ranked seventh and 20th, respectively.