A copyright fight over open-source software landed Morrison & Foerster one of its biggest intellectual property appellate victories of 2011. Morrison client Novell Inc. had faced litigation for years over the rights to the popular computer operating system Unix. In 2010, Morrison attorneys helped convince a Utah federal jury that Novell owned those rights. In August 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld the jury’s decision, sparing Novell the hundreds of millions of dollars that opponent SCO Group Inc. wanted in licensing fees.

From defending clients against major copyright litigation to drafting and enforcing patents for the latest advances in electronics or biofuels, Morrison prides itself on running a “full-service” IP practice, said practice co-chairman Alexander Hadjis. Unlike boutique firms or large firms with a specialized IP practice, he said, Morrison has nearly 300 attorneys in its practice with a range of skills and expertise.

The firm scored another big appellate victory last year before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, representing Bayer HealthCare LLC in a patent fight over glucose meters and strips. The much-watched case yielded a ruling tightening the standards for inequitable conduct, as well as a win for Morrison’s client.

Morrison partner Rachel Krevans, who argued for Bayer, said being able to bring in firm attorneys with different areas of expertise as the case moved from trial to appeal was a big plus. “Everywhere you turn, you can find someone who is the right person for that specific thing you have to do,” she said. For instance, when the case went to the Federal Circuit, she said, she added two firm attorneys who were former circuit clerks to the team.

Michael Ward, a practice co-chairman, said Morrison recruits lawyers who not only have technical expertise, but also understand how a patent may play out in litigation. “You can’t just write patent applications and send them in and expect that that patent is going to stand up,” he said. “You have to work together on it, and it’s constantly changing.”

Practice co-chairman Eric Acker said that the firm’s IP practice has “exploded” during the past 18 months. Not just “shakedown troll cases,” he said, but substantive work, such as the firm’s representation of Oracle Corp. in its high-profile battle with Google Inc. over copyright claims to Android software. “It’s a very exciting time…and we’re smack dab in the middle of it,” he said.

— Zoe Tillman