Duane Morris has opened a new office in Palo Alto, making for the firm’s fifth outpost in California.

The new location will focus, to start, on intellectual property litigation. To that end, the firm hired K&L Gates partner Karineh Khachatourian and associate Patrick S. Salceda.

Duane Morris already has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Truckee, Calif., which is near Lake Tahoe. The firm said the Palo Alto office will give Duane Morris attorneys more efficient and direct access to clients across the high-tech hub that is the Silicon Valley. Attorneys in the firm’s existing four offices will help to service clients in the Palo Alto location.

The firm said Palo Alto is a natural fit for Duane Morris’ work in patent litigation and prosecution, trademarks, copyrights, venture capital, private equity and related commercial litigation.

The intellectual property practice, particularly in California, has been a strategic growth target for Duane Morris recently.

L. Norwood “Woody” Jameson, chairman of the practice, said in a statement that the launch in Palo Alto was a direct response to client feedback. He said the IP practice leadership is making a “substantial commitment” to the West Coast with a priority on hiring in Palo Alto and other California offices.

Duane Morris Chairman John Soroko told The Legal the firm wanted to get closer to the types of clients that fall into the firm’s IP “sweet spot,” which he said was in the computer, high-tech and telecommunications space. Khachatourian said she would be bringing clients with her to Duane Morris, including video game makers, video game console makers and software manufacturers.

Duane Morris changed the leadership of the IP practice in early 2012. Lewis F. Gould Jr. stepped down and Atlanta-based Jameson took his place.

Jameson’s practice has a strong emphasis on patent litigation for electronic engineering companies, making the firm’s goals in Palo Alto and San Francisco a natural evolution for the practice, Soroko said.

“Companies are being much more circumspect about where they are willing to invest dollars in litigation efforts, but things that continue to be important to our clients are issues that surround intellectual property,” Soroko said.

The firm has been very mindful of that trend in the past few years and has looked to grow accordingly, he said.
”IP is our third largest practice group in the firm,” Soroko said. “It has been a very important ingredient in our success over the last few years.”

There are more than 100 Duane Morris lawyers practicing between the firm’s five California offices. About 70 of those lawyers are in San Francisco. That office started in 1999 with an energy and natural resources focus and has now become full-service, including lawyers practicing across the spectrum of IP work, Soroko said.

Khachatourian focuses her practice on intellectual property litigation. She represents high-tech clients in Northern California in patent, trade secret, trademark and related commercial litigation and counsels clients in the area of IP enforcement. Khachatourian’s technology focus includes computer hardware and software, with an emphasis on encryption technology, related consumer electronics and computer peripherals, and video gaming technology.

Khachatourian’s work includes high-tech and design patent infringement and licensing disputes; inventorship and ownership issues; trade secret misappropriation, particularly with competitors and departing employees; and trademark infringement issues.

Originally from the East Coast, Khachatourian relocated to the Silicon Valley area in 1998 and spent time with a few other law firms before landing at K&L Gates three years ago. She said the opportunity to lead a new office at Duane Morris was something she couldn’t pass up.

In the short term, the other California offices and Atlanta can help handle the work that comes into Palo Alto, because that’s what they’ve been doing, Khachatourian said. But the plan is to grow the new location and the firm has enough office space to do that, she said.

Aside from her practice, Khachatourian is an advisory board member of IP Counsel Café; chair of the strategic development board and co-leader of General Counsel Network for Watermark, a group for executive women; a partner with Leading Women in Technology as well as with ChIPs, an organization that advances women in IP law; and the co-founder of Salonnières, a social organization for women professionals.

Khachatourian said Duane Morris’ decision to put a woman in charge of the new office says a lot about the firm, considering most of her counterparts in the Silicon Valley are men.

K&L Gates declined to comment on Khachatourian’s move.

Creating a Foothold in the Valley

Out-of-state firms have had varied success in launching in the Silicon Valley region.

Of the 100 largest law firms in Pennsylvania, Duane Morris has become the ninth to open in the Silicon Valley region. Reed Smith; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; K&L Gates; Dechert; Jones Day; Littler Mendelson; Greenberg Traurig; and DLA Piper have offices in the area.

Khachatourian said she has seen a number of firms look to enter the market and the “winning recipe” is one that Duane Morris has adopted. The key, she said, is to already have a base in the region and a client need to open there. The concept of “build it and they will come” does not work in Silicon Valley, Khachatourian said.

Because of the success of Jameson’s team and the work being done by the firm’s existing California attorneys, Duane Morris has a jumpstart on a successful launch in the area, Khachatourian said.

And “sometimes law firms tend to want to bring the culture of their base office into the Silicon Valley, particularly when they are based on the East Coast, and that doesn’t translate,” Khachatourian said.

Khachatourian noted Duane Morris’ choice to add her as the face of the office sends a strong message that they have someone familiar with the market “to really be the eyes and ears on the ground.”

Soroko agreed Silicon Valley can be a tough market to crack. The firm had been looking for the right opportunity for some time, he said.

In the meantime, Duane Morris has been focusing its growth efforts, in part, outside of the United States. The firm has increasingly grown in Singapore. While Soroko said there are no immediate plans for new offices in that region, Duane Morris is “very keen” on looking at that part of Southeast Asia for new growth opportunities in the future.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at gpassarella@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI.