The big wins have piled up recently for Winston & Strawn’s intellectual property team. In April, Winston’s James Hurst won a 9-0 ruling for client Caraco Pharmaceutical Laboratories Ltd. at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that opens a new pathway for generic drug companies to challenge the accuracy of patent information name-brand companies give to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The defeat of Danish name-brand pharmaceutical firm Novo Nordisk A/S was just one of a string of wins for generic drug companies.
Hurst also scored a victory for client Sun Pharmaceutical Industries. In 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit invalidated a patent on one of Eli Lilly and Co.’s highest-selling cancer drugs, known as Gemzar. The court agreed with Sun’s argument that Lilly had engaged in “double-patenting.” Last May, the Supreme Court denied Lilly’s cert petition in the case.
“We fell into IP accidentally,” said Hurst, the chairman of the practice group. “Our trial lawyers started to get hired for IP cases in the mid-1990s, not because we were an IP firm but because we could try cases.” Eventually, the firm decided the industry was too big to ignore, and its IP group now includes 200 lawyers out of a firm total of 928, according to the recent NLJ 250.
The victories over the past year haven’t been confined to the pharmaceutical industry. Partner Michael Elkin led a team that helped Veoh Networks Inc., a Web video-sharing service, win a major decision at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Record label Universal Music Group had sued, alleging that Veoh violated copyright laws by allowing users to share video containing UMG’s music. In December, the Ninth Circuit upheld a district court decision in Veoh’s favor. The bet-the-industry decision was influential in laying out the boundaries of the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
“We’re not paper-pushers, we’re trial lawyers,” said Elkin. “The fact that we can lay claim to huge trial success is significant.”
One area of IP where the firm has had a small presence is in the so-called “smartphone wars” of patent litigation between competing handheld manufacturers. After whetting its appetite by helping Motorola Inc. in a recent case, the firm is on the hunt for more. “We’re sort of dipping our toe into that,” Hurst said. “It’s a big massive war, and nobody knows when it’s going to end, so we’re trying to get a piece of it.”
— Jason McLure