The last two years have been recording breaking ones for intellectual property law. The latest World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) report stated that patent filings grew by 9.2 percent or 2.35 million applications filed in 2012. And at the top of that list for the U.S. was a high number of filings based on computer and mobile device technology like smartphones and tablets.  Needless to say, if you are an intellectual property lawyer, business has been good.

Consider the legal fees that incur on high-profile, multi-million dollar cases that are stretched over an extended period of time. Take Apple and Samsung for example, two companies that have long been in a battle over patents on their products. In fact, with the complexity behind mobile technology, patent suits can be dragged out for years, sometimes long after a product has been taken off the shelves to be replaced by “the next best thing.” The longer any lawsuit is drawn out, the higher the legal fee bill becomes, and while the final payoff will surely benefit the winning party, the real victor is the legal team in the winner’s circle. 

According to a recent Bloomberg article, a 2012 case between Apple and Samsung over infringements on the iPhone and iPad, (which was decided in Apple’s favor over Samsung), produced a $929 million lawsuit with legal fees estimated around a whopping $15.7 million. Overall, Apple will pay about $60 million in legal fees for work done on the dispute, which lasted about two years.

The majority of that money will go to the lead firm handling the case, Morrison & Foerster, with roughly $2 million in fees paid to Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, which also defended Apple against Samsung’s counterclaims, as stated by Bloomberg.  

While both figures are impressive, its worth nothing the amount of work and staffing that goes into handling a case of such magnitude. Apart from the actual litigations and courtroom visits, the case called on over 30 contract lawyers for the discovery phase alone to work with an additional 25 associates. With more than 209 depositions on both sides, the court filing resulted in more than 2,500 deposition exhibit documents. 

Stanford University IP law professor Mark Lemley estimates that more than $1 billion has been spent in recent years on all the smartphone patent litigation. As technology, and mobile devices in particular, continue to lead the consumer-driven market, intellectual property cases of this magnitude and the payoff it provides for legal teams doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon, during a time where other practice areas are not seeing the same success.


For related reports on the latest IP and patent cases, check out these recent articles on Inside Counsel:

Global patent filings experience fastest growth in almost two decades

 Nokia wins key ruling against HTC for ongoing patent case on smartphones

Supreme Court to rule on software patent protection

Oracle and Google headed for IP showdown with major implications