A little over three years after starting a patent litigation practice at Radnor, Pa.-based class action firm Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, partner Michael J. Bonella has left to join Philadelphia-based intellectual property boutique Condo Roccia Koptiw as a partner.
Bonella will be joined at Condo Roccia by Kessler Topaz associate Jenna Pellecchia, who is joining as an associate.
Bonella joined the firm March 25 and Pellecchia is set to join March 31.
The addition of Bonella and Pellecchia enhances the patent litigation capabilities of Condo Roccia, co-founding partner Joseph R. Condo said.
“We recognized that to be good patent procurement attorneys it’s important to have some exposure to patent litigation,” Condo said.
Condo said that while his firm has been involved in patent litigation since its inception, that involvement has mostly been limited to more of a “litigation support” role, teaming with outside trial lawyers to provide them with a “nuts-and-bolts patent analysis” on cases.
But according to Condo, the time is right for Condo Roccia to branch out from its core practice of patent prosecution and procurement and Bonella and Pellecchia will allow the firm to handle more litigation on its own.
Bonella’s practice meshes well with Condo Roccia’s business model, which is focused on providing middle-market clients with maximum value, Condo said.
Condo said his firm fills “a niche market that the big, old, very expensive firms simply cannot service anymore—that goes for patent litigation and patent prosecution.”
Bonella and Pellecchia serve the same type of clientele in their own practice, so their addition seemed like a natural fit for Condo Roccia, Condo said.
“The market for litigation consistent with our business model was exactly the one that Mike and Jenna were serving,” Condo said.
Bonella joined Kessler Topaz—then Barroway Topaz Kessler Meltzer & Check—as a partner in 2010 from IP boutique Woodcock Washburn, which has since merged into Am Law 100 firm Baker & Hostetler.
At the time, Bonella said part of his motivation for making the move was to get away from the traditional billable-hour model in order to do primarily alternative fee and contingency fee work, the latter of which accounts for the majority of Kessler Topaz’s business.
Bonella said in a 2010 interview that clients had been increasingly unwilling or unable to fund patent infringement suits.
“A lot of big companies out there have very good patents and intellectual property they’ve invested a lot in, but when it comes time to protect those rights, they’re almost locked out of their investments because of the cost of protecting those rights,” he had said.
But on Thursday, Bonella acknowledged that while he will retain some fee flexibility at Condo Roccia, contingency fee work will no longer be a major part of his practice.
”Under the right circumstances, perhaps, but it won’t be the primary focus,” Bonella said of taking on contingency fee matters at his new firm.
Still, Bonella said he was not dissatisfied with the contingency fee model at Kessler Topaz.
“I was looking to be able to adapt to the market and provide fee flexibility in order to service clients at a better value and I was able to do that at Kessler Topaz for the last few years,” Bonella said, adding that the contingency fee matters he’s currently working on “are all going fine.”
Kessler Topaz partner Joseph Meltzer could not be reached for comment at press time.
Bonella said the major driver of his decision to join Condo Roccia was the “much deeper talent bench” the firm provides.
Whereas Kessler Topaz’s patent litigation department consisted of four attorneys, including Bonella and Pellecchia, Condo Roccia will have 17 attorneys focused exclusively on IP work after Pellecchia joins.
Bonella said he was attracted to Condo Roccia’s diversifying IP practice, which began with the founding attorneys’ background in electrical patent procurement and has since expanded, with the recent addition of partner Brian J. Hubbard, into chemical and biochemical patent procurement and now patent litigation.
“It’s a growing, dynamic practice,” Bonella said.
Bonella said he’s known Condo and co-founding partner Vincent J. Roccia since the three worked together at Woodcock Washburn, beginning in the mid-1990s.
“We all grew up together in a law firm … and we always shared a common vision of what we thought a law firm would look like and how we would run a business,” Bonella said.
In 2011, about nine months after Bonella left Woodcock Washburn for Kessler Topaz, Condo, the former chair of Woodcock Washburn’s patent procurement services group, and Roccia, the former transactions operations manager at the firm, left to start Condo Roccia, bringing six patent procurement associates with them.
When the chance to move to Condo Roccia presented itself, Bonella said, he viewed it as an opportunity to reunite with his old friends at the type of firm they always dreamed of.
As for where Condo Roccia sees its newly-bolstered litigation practice heading in the future, Condo said its growth will be dictated by the clients, just as its expansion to more than double its size in less than three years has been.
“We went from eight lawyers to 17 because of the needs of the marketplace,” Condo said.
The past six months have seen a fair amount of movement in Pennsylvania’s IP bar.
Last October, Aleksander J. Goranin, then-chair of Woodcock Washburn’s litigation practice, and David J. Wolfsohn, a former chair of the practice, joined Duane Morris as partners.
January saw Woodcock Washburn and Baker & Hostetler merge, with all but two of Woodcock Washburn’s 68 lawyers coming aboard.
In February, Patricia S. Rogowski, a former IP attorney at Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg’s Wilmington, Del., office, joined Philadelphia-based Panitch Schwarze Belisario & Nadel, where she will lead her new firm’s expansion into Delaware.