Steven Cherny, a well-regarded litigator who has spent nearly the past decade at Kirkland & Ellis, has joined Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan as a partner in New York.
Cherny litigates intellectual property cases in a variety of matters, including the consumer products, electronics, financial, pharmaceutical and telecommunications industries. He co-led a Kirkland team in 2015 that won a patent infringement judgment worth nearly $2 billion for vascular graft maker C.R. Bard Inc., a long-running case that a federal trial court judge in Arizona once described as the most complicated she had ever overseen.
The American Lawyer profiled Cherny’s efforts for C.R. Bard in a 2009 feature story about the dispute over ownership of the artificial blood vessel, a technology known as vascular graft. And nearly a year ago, Cherny helped Cisco Systems Inc. achieve a victory before the U.S. International Trade Commission in its ongoing IP war with rival Arista Networks Inc. over three networking patents.
Quinn Emanuel’s allure for Cherny stemmed partly from his desire to get back to a firm where litigation is the central focus, he said. Cherny began his career at Fish & Neave, leaving the noted IP shop in 2004 ahead of its merger with Ropes & Gray to join Latham & Watkins. Cherny left Latham four years later for Kirkland.
“Latham and Kirkland are great places where the focus was a little more varied,” Cherny said. “[But] I’ve been doing this for 26 years, and you get to a point where it’s nice to have people who are focused on what you do. Trials are stressful and it’s nice to go deal with people who you’ve dealt with before.”
That describes many of the people at Quinn Emanuel, Cherny said, including IP litigation co-chairs David Nelson and Edward DeFranco. Nelson and Cherny led Latham’s IP practice together in the early 2000s, and Cherny and Nelson first crossed paths when they both worked at Fish & Neave.
“Our lawyers have worked with and against Steve for years,” DeFranco said in a statement prepared by Quinn Emanuel. “We are all thankful he will now be on our side all of the time.”
In March, Ropes & Gray announced that due to tightening competition in the IP arena, the firm would spin off its patent prosecution practice into a separate firm. The move will lead to the departure of 100 lawyers and staffers at Ropes & Gray, many of them Cherny’s former colleagues from Fish & Neave. Cherny said his own practice has not been seriously affected by the creation five years ago of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, a body that has made resolving some patent disputes much cheaper for corporate clients.
“I’ve been pretty busy over the last couple of years doing competitor versus competitor cases,” he said. “What I think [PTAB] probably is cutting down, though I can’t say this was ever a huge part of my practice, is nonpracticing entities. For the people who were purely in it just to monetize, I think the changes have affected them. But Cisco v. Arista, for example, that had nothing to do with changes in the law. That was just two companies having a dispute about products.”
Cherny said he and his former colleagues at Latham and Fish & Neave had been talking for some time about whether it would make sense for him to join them at Quinn Emanuel, whose co-founder has built the firm into a litigation powerhouse.
“A couple of years ago I met with John Quinn, and I think once you meet with John Quinn it’s definitionally serious,” he said.
Quinn Emanuel and Kirkland both landed among the top-earning firms for partners on The American Lawyer’s most recent Am Law 100 list, with profits per equity partner at Quinn Emanuel inching above the $5 million mark in 2016, about $1 million higher than those at Kirkland.
Kirkland, a 1,759-lawyer firm, did see its gross revenue soar last year, to $2.65 billion, good enough for the No. 2 spot in the entire Am Law 100. The 718-lawyer Quinn Emanuel took in $1.2 billion in 2016, ranking 23rd in that metric.
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