William Burgess

Detroit-based Dickinson Wright is headed to Silicon Valley after taking over the local office of Downey Brand, a move that will bring on four intellectual property lawyers and two senior patent agents.

“Our firm for some time has been looking at strategy for the right fit in that market,” said Dickinson Wright CEO William Burgess. “We have in many of our offices a significant intellectual property presence, including patent prosecution, trade markets, copyright and IP litigation. We were simply looking to expand our capabilities more directly into the high-tech industry and market, that’s the motivation for the growth.”

The new office, which opened on April 1, is chaired by Michael Ferrazano, a patent prosecution expert who in 2015 helped Sacramento-based Downey Brand set up shop in Silicon Valley. Before that, Ferrazano was a partner at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, a firm now known as Womble Bond Dickinson.

“We are thrilled to be joining Dickinson Wright and expanding its intellectual property practice into the critical Silicon Valley market,” said Ferrazano in a statement. “Dickinson Wright offers an ideal blend of the highest quality legal acumen with superior client service. Our experience with major world-class technology providers in Silicon Valley will strengthen and complement the firm’s already nationally-recognized practices.”

Ferrazano, who focuses his practice on IP and licensing work, primarily advises clients in computer networking, applications and implementation, digital signal processing, computer software, integrated circuit design and semiconductor device fabrication. The three other lawyers joining Dickinson Wright alongside Ferrazano are of counsel Chad Eimers and J. Brian Loker and associate William Cheng, with senior patent agents James Aslanis Jr. and Bret McClay.

“Their client base is top-notch and they have a long track record of serving clients in the patent prosecution area,” Burgess said. “For us, it was an opportunity that has a lot of positive upsides and hopefully very little risk.”

Dickinson Wright’s expansion into California, where the Am Law 200 firm did not previously have an office, marks its 19th nationwide. Ferrazano’s six-person team are so far the only members of its outpost in Sunnyvale, California, but Dickinson Wright is likely to add more IP lawyers from other offices or through lateral hires in the region, Burgess said.

According to the firm, Dickinson Wright has about 53 lawyers working out of its IP practice firm-wide. The group has grown dramatically in recent years, thanks in part to its acquisition of 13 lawyers—including a partner who does work for the Kardashians—from dissolving Las Vegas firm Gordon Silver in 2015. Later that year, Dickinson Wright took on seven more lawyers from another IP boutique disbanding in Washington, D.C.

As for Downey Brand, the firm’s website shows that it has 90 lawyers, up from the 70 it had four years ago after a spate of defections. Downey Brand is now seeking to reposition its practice offerings in Northern California.

“I know Mike is looking forward to working at a firm that has other patent prosecutors such as Dickinson Wright,” said Downey Brand managing partner Scott Shapiro, regarding the departure of Ferrazano’s team. “Our intellectual property practice is focused on trademark and intellectual property litigation.”

Downey Brand’s Silicon Valley office was built around the arrival of Ferrazano and his team when they came aboard from Womble Carlyle three years ago. With that group gone, Shapiro said his firm will focus more on the development of its San Francisco office, which has grown from two to nine lawyers within the past three years.

A press release that touted Downey Brand’s 2015 opening in Silicon Valley has been removed from the firm’s website.