Intellectual property litigator Mary Bourke has left Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz to join the Wilmington, Del., office of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice and will bring four attorneys with her to the new firm. Delaware legal sources describe the departure as a tremendous gain for Womble Carlyle, noting Bourke’s success in intellectual property disputes.

Also joining Womble Carlyle from Connolly Bove are partner Kristen H. Cramer, partner Mark J. Pino, who joins the firm’s Washington, D.C., office, and associates Daniel M. Attaway and Dana K. Severance. All four attorneys will work with Bourke in the firm’s life sciences intellectual property department.

“Womble Carlyle is a good fit for my practice because their intellectual property units are growing and I want to grow my group and my practice,” Bourke told Delaware Law Weekly. “They have great litigation bench strength and support for me.”

Bourke declined to comment on whether Connolly Bove’s plans to merge with Houston firm Novak Druce + Quigg, creating the nation’s seventh-largest intellectual property firm, had an impact on her decision. She also declined to comment on how the move impacts billing rates.

Bourke did say that she will be bringing some of her Connolly Bove clients to Womble Carlyle. During her time at Connolly Bove, Bourke represented companies involved in the biopharmaceutical, chemical and medical device industries. “I have brought many of my clients with me and I hope to develop new clients at Womble,” she said.

Delaware legal insiders describe Bourke as a “big player” in the world of intellectual property, while another source used a baseball analogy, describing her as “a healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley rolled into one.”

Bourke joins Womble Carlyle with roughly 25 years of patent experience in both the district and appellate courts. She was the first co-chair for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc.’s successful defense of its cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor against an abbreviated new drug application challenge by drug maker Ranbaxy Laboratories.

Connolly Bove represented Pfizer in a number of high-profile challenges to Lipitor in federal courts throughout the country since the drug’s approval in 1996. The drug has generated $1.2 billion in sales since its approval, according to data from Pfizer’s website.

However, the amount of litigation generated by Lipitor has decreased since the drug’s patent expired in November 2011, allowing drug manufacturers to replicate the product’s compounds. The reduction in Lipitor cases was cited by Delaware sources as a factor in Connolly Bove’s struggles in recent months.

Bourke has also served as co-lead counsel and first chair in eight abbreviated new drug application challenges to AstraZeneca’s Crestor, which is also a cholesterol medicine, and she led the litigation team for LifeScan Inc. in an infringement action filed against it relating to blood glucose monitoring technology.

Connolly Bove managing partner Jeff Bove acknowledged the departure of Bourke’s group and two other attorneys in a separate move in an email to Delaware Law Weekly. He said in the statement that the departing attorneys were not included in the discussions to merge with Novak Druce to create a new entity dubbed Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg.

“These departures were expected and it is not unusual when there is a merger that some attorneys may choose a different platform,” Bove said in the statement. “These attorneys are joining large general practice firms that are very different than our vision for Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg. In fact, these departing attorneys were not considered in our discussions with or included in our plans with Novak Druce given earlier indications of the desire to be with a general practice firm. We have enjoyed working with them and wish them all the best.”

“We are very excited that our merger is proceeding on schedule,” he added.

Pino will represent clients in a variety of areas including patent counseling and opinions, litigation, and prosecution and re-examinations in pharmaceutical, biochemical and chemical matters. He previously served as co-vice chair of Connolly Bove’s Washington, D.C., patent prosecution and counseling section.

He has experience with abbreviated new drug application litigation and proceedings before the International Trade Commission. In addition, Pino has a technical background that covers all subject matter involving small molecules, pharmaceuticals, organic chemistry and biochemical assays.

Cramer represents clients in patent infringement actions involving medical devices, pharmaceuticals and consumer products. During her time at Connolly Bove, she managed cases involving e-discovery in the United States and abroad, but it is not known if she will be handling e-discovery cases at Womble Carlyle.

Both Attaway and Severance are expected to represent clients in patent litigation, prosecution, counseling and trademark litigation in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Both also have experience in e-discovery cases.