Kao and Tsai, both of whom are among the fewer than 50 registered foreign lawyers in Taiwan, will lead the Taiwan practice at Pillsbury Winthrop. The firm announced Monday that it intends to open an office later this year in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, to serve its Asia-based intellectual property, technology and life sciences clients.
“I am Taiwanese-American and one of the most important cultural aspects of Asian culture, including for Chinese people and Taiwanese people, is having face time with clients,” said Tsai, who along with Kao will serve as co-head of Pillsbury Winthrop’s Taiwan practice. “They expect to see you, and it is very important to have a presence where they are located as well.”
Tsai and Kao, who officially started at their new firm on March 10, have been working together for nearly eight years. Prior to joining Vinson in 2005, both were partners at Perkins Coie, where Kao served as the managing partner of the firm’s office in Palo Alto, California. Kao held the same role at Vinson, which he joined with Tsai from Perkins Coie in 2015. Tsai worked out of Vinson’s office in San Francisco.
“Pillsbury has significant investments in Asia, where in our prior firm we feel that there just wasn’t as many opportunities as there are here,” Tsai said.
Both lawyers said that Pillsbury Winthrop is working to secure new office space in Taipei, where the firm expects to officially set up shop sometime this summer. In China, Pillsbury Winthrop saw a new Hong Kong office become profitable last year, supplementing its other two local offices in Beijing and Shanghai. The firm also has a long-established Japan practice, having opened a Tokyo office in 1991.
“Building on our formidable IP practice in Asia has been a strategic focus for more than 10 years, and the additions of Steve Moore and his team in San Diego and Jack Ko in Shanghai have been key elements of that strategy,” said a statement from Pillsbury Winthrop chair David Dekker, who assumed leadership of the firm in 2017. “Adding Chris and David will cement us as the ‘go-to’ firm for U.S.-Asia IP work, and we are very pleased to welcome them.”
Kao, who will split his time between Palo Alto, San Francisco and the soon-to-be-established Taipei office, has focused his practice on IP litigation, including trade secrets, trademark, patent and copyright disputes, as well as other high-stakes commercial litigation. He has worked as a first-chair trial lawyer in complex IP and commercial litigation cases and represented clients in the computer hardware and software, semiconductor, telecommunications, biotechnology and consumer products industries.
Tsai is also well-versed in U.S. patent law, having handled cases related to high technology, standard essential patents, FRAND and RAND royalties and litigation involving Hatch-Waxman and Abbreviated New Drug Applications. He is fluent in Taiwanese and Chinese Mandarin.
“We are really excited to join Pillsbury, also because of the deep bench of very skilled attorneys in the Bay Area,” Kao said. “Pillsbury has a skilled and broad set of practice areas [here] that really matches well with our focus on technology clients.”
According to the firm, Pillsbury Winthrop’s San Francisco office, which opened in 1874, had 107 lawyers, 80 of them working in the IP practice, as of April 30. The additions of Kao and Tsai are the latest in a string of recent hires by the firm on the West Coast.
In August, Pillsbury Winthrop welcomed aboard trial lawyer Kenneth Keller and special counsel Christopher Veatch from dissolving boutique Keller Sloan Roman, which Keller co-founded in 1998. The firm also brought on IP litigation partners Howard Wisnia and James Conley in San Diego from Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo in San Diego. More recently, Pillsbury Winthrop picked up counsel Vijay Toke to handle copyright, licensing and trademark disputes in San Francisco, where he was previously a partner at Berkeley, California-based boutique Cobalt.
Pillsbury Winthrop also has been expanding other practice areas. Earlier this month, the firm hired a 13-lawyer state and local tax team in California and New York from Eversheds Sutherland. In April, Pillsbury Winthrop welcomed back Jonathan Ocker, a longtime executive compensation and benefits lawyer, in San Francisco.