Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr landed back-to-back wins in the U.S. Supreme Court, highlighting a big year for the firm’s intellectual property practice. The high court ruled twice in June — just days apart — for Wilmer clients in closely watched patent cases that generated substantial amicus briefing from the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology sector and Silicon Valley.
In litigation over university ownership of inventions, Wilmer litigation partner Mark Fleming, arguing for the first time in the Supreme Court, successfully defended Roche Molecular Systems Inc. in a dispute with Stanford University. Stanford sued Roche for alleged infringement over the company’s HIV test kits, saying the university owned the patents because the technology behind them was developed by a university researcher using federal funding.
The high court ruled, 7-2, for Roche, marking the first time the Court has upheld a judgment from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when the government was urging reversal. “The basic principle in American law is if you invent something the patent is presumptively yours,” Fleming said. “That’s been the law for 200 years, and the Court didn’t change that.”
Representing i4i L.P., a Canadian software consulting company, Wilmer partner Seth Waxman convinced the high court in a unanimous decision not to strike down a $290 million jury verdict against Microsoft Corp. The suit against the software giant alleged that versions of its Word software infringed i4i patents on a method for editing documents. The Court ruled that the clear and convincing evidence standard, rather than the preponderance standard, should be used to prove an alleged patent infringer’s invalidity defense.
Partner William Lee described Wilmer’s year as “robust.” Lee, who last year successfully represented Abbott Laboratories in the Federal Circuit, attributed the firm’s success to combining the core IP practice with technically trained lawyers, including trial attorneys and appellate litigators. The Abbott case, Lee said, involved “one of the most successful drugs in history, billions of dollars of damages and several cutting-edge patent issues.” Centocor sued Abbott over its drug Humira, used to treat autoimmune disorders. Despite a loss in Texas, Abbott stuck with Wilmer in what Lee termed “the importance of a meaningful long-term strategy.”
In February 2011, the appeals court overturned a $1.67 billion patent-infringement verdict against Abbott. “Through defeat and victory, Abbott was resolute in its commitment to the firm,” Lee said.
— Mike Scarcella