The move will become effective July 1 and will include Cohen Pontani senior partners Thomas Pontani, Martin Pavane, Thomas Langer, Lance Lieberman and Edward Weisz, who will join Cozen O’Connor’s New York City office as members. Also moving to Cozen O’Connor will be seven additional members, one of counsel and six associates.
This acquisition follows the firm’s hire last month of 14 labor and employment and commercial litigation attorneys from the Houston office of Epstein Becker & Green. In September 2010, Cozen O’Connor added 15 lawyers and government affairs professionals from Sher & Blackwell to its Washington, D.C., office.
“The addition of Cohen Pontani’s excellent group of attorneys marks another successful milestone in Cozen O’Connor’s strategic geographically focused growth over the past two years,” the firm’s president, Thomas A. “Tad” Decker, said in a statement. “Adding this talented group helps us fulfill our strategy of building a top notch team to serve our national and international clients. We have made great strides in continuing our growth in New York, and the team from Cohen Pontani is yet another example of our commitment to strategically grow in response to our clients’ needs.”
Decker said in an interview Tuesday that it was his understanding Cohen Pontani would dissolve after the 19 lawyers departed. He said the eight lawyers who are not joining Cozen O’Connor “are very fine lawyers, but [the 19-member group] was all in our expansion plans we were willing to do.” He said the goal is to grow the New York office into a general service office by adding certain specialty groups.
With the addition of nearly 30 Wolf Block lawyers in New York in 2009, continued lateral hiring in the market and now this group of 19 attorneys, Cozen O’Connor will have exactly 100 lawyers in the city. Decker said his firm and Cohen Pontani were not introduced by a recruiter, but rather met through “friends of friends.” Their addition brings Cozen O’Connor to 33 attorneys focusing solely on intellectual property.
The Cohen Pontani lawyers add a deeper litigation component to the firm’s existing focus on patent prosecution, though both firms have lawyers on either side of the intellectual property practice. Cozen O’Connor ranked first in trademark filings in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia for 2010, compared with any other law firm or company in the state, the firm said, citing statistics released by the Corporation Service Co.
Decker said Cozen O’Connor has a strong trademark and copyright practice in Philadelphia and handles some litigation and patent prosecution in New York. He said the Cohen Pontani lawyers add litigation bench strength, but he said Cozen O’Connor is also very interested in their patent prosecution work, in which they represent Fortune 100 companies and large clients in Europe, Japan and Korea.
While the Philadelphia market has seen some IP practices break off from large firms because of conflicts, Decker said there were no conflicts in this deal.
Cohen Pontani attorneys represent domestic and foreign clients across a range of industries, including biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, automotive and telecommunications. The firm handles intellectual property protection matters including prosecution, licensing and litigation.
Pontani focuses on litigation and patent prosecution; Lieberman focuses on the preparation and prosecution of patent applications; Pavane handles patent, trademark and copyright litigation; Langer helps clients with patent applications, including preparation, filing, prosecution, appeals, reissues, re-examinations and interferences; and Weisz’s work has focused on U.S. patent and trademark prosecution, including rendering legal opinions and advising clients on infringement and validity issues.
Pavane was most recently in the news for serving as the lead outside counsel for India-based Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. The company was attempting to bring a generic version of the allergy medicine Allegra to the market and was facing a full trial on patent infringement claims brought by Allegra maker Sanofi-Aventis and patent holder Albany Medical Research Inc. in New Jersey federal court. Even Dr. Reddy’s in-house lawyer admitted later that he was nervous to leave the case in the hands of a 27-lawyer firm, but ultimately, Pavane and his team got the judge to remove a preliminary injunction against the generic drug coming to market and the infringement trial was canceled.
Last September, Pavane, the firm’s managing partner and top litigator, pulled off another big trial win for client Sandoz, beating back an infringement suit brought by King Pharmaceuticals Inc. in connection with Sandoz’s move to market a generic version of the muscle relaxant Skelaxin, according to a report by Legal affiliate Corporate Counsel magazine. Less than a month after that verdict, Cohen Pontani partner Michael Stuart began his own march to victory in a marathon seven-week trial as part of an infringement suit brought on behalf of Helsinki-based industrial equipment maker Metso Corp. The result: a finding of willful infringement and an initial $15.8 million jury award for Metso, plus the chance to pursue triple damages against Terex Corp. and other defendants, Corporate Counsel reported.
Pavane told the magazine in April that litigation accounts for close to 70 percent of the firm’s revenue. In the years since its founding by four lawyers in 1985, Cohen Pontani has maintained a diverse array of IP matters, including a practice in patent prosecution, where its client list features Konica Minolta Holdings Inc., Compagnie Général des Établissements Michelin, Schlumberger Limited, Siemens AG and Beechnut, as well as Columbia University. Yet trial work — focused heavily on patent infringement defense for generic drugmakers — has continued to drive growth, Pavane had said.
Decker said the attorneys joining Cozen O’Connor wanted a larger platform that “provides them with a kind of certainty that there would be adequate backup for big cases.”
He said he thinks there is an opportunity for both firms to expand their client reach with the acquisition, including introducing Cohen Pontani lawyers to other practice areas in Cozen O’Connor. The only difficulty that can sometimes arise in cross-selling an IP practice is that IP lawyers typically deal with the chief patent counsel rather than the general counsel who is making broader purchasing decisions, he said. •