The group, led by partner Harper Batts, will join Sheppard Mullin’s intellectual property practice group in Palo Alto. Also joining Batts at the Los Angeles-based Am Law 100 firm are special counsel Christopher Ponder and senior associate Jeffrey Liang.
“Sheppard Mullin seems to be in an overall growth mode in general and as a firm, including opening offices across the country,” said Batts about his decision to switch firms. “As well as its IP team … they have had some high-profile wins and they have a very broad IP practice here that is beyond just the patent litigation and PTAB proceedings that we work on.”
Batts spent nearly five years at Baker Botts, which promoted him to partner in January 2017, three years after he joined the firm as special counsel. Batts previously spent more than five years at Kirkland & Ellis, where in late 2011 he was part of that firm’s annual nonequity partnership class. Before that Batts spent two years as an associate at McDermott Will & Emery.
Liang also previously worked at Kirkland in East Palo Alto before joining Baker Botts as an associate in early 2014. Ponder, meanwhile, returned to Baker Botts as a senior associate the year after a clerkship with U.S. District Judge Roy Payne in Marshall, Texas, a region known for its robust IP docket.
Even before the team joined Baker Botts, Batts said he worked closely with Ponder and Liang on a number of issues. The group represented clients across numerous technology sectors in patent litigation matters and inter partes review proceedings.
Batts and Ponder represented wearable technology company Fitbit Inc. in multiple patent disputes, including a recent U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board decision that invalidated a heart rate sensor patent owned by Valencell Inc. by finding all but three of 13 claims unpatentable. In July, Batts and Ponder argued on behalf of video game company Wargaming Group Ltd. in an IPR hearing against Game & Technology Co. Ltd., which followed Activision Blizzard Inc.’s own unsuccessful IPR against the same patent. Earlier this month, a PTAB decision found all challenged claims unpatentable.
“Our IP practice is booming,” said a statement from Sheppard Mullin chairman Guy Halgren. “Our IP litigators and our patent and trademark teams are busy everywhere, and our clients routinely rely on us for guidance on their most important IP matters. Harper and his team’s extensive experience with venues around the country and before the PTAB will benefit our clients immensely.”
With the addition of Batts’ group, Sheppard Mullin’s Silicon Valley office, which began with four lawyers a decade ago, now has 32 total attorneys. The entire IP group at the firm, which enjoyed its 27th consecutive year of financial growth in 2017, now has 98 lawyers.
Sheppard Mullin has made nearly two-dozen lateral partners hires in 2018. This summer, the firm raided Los Angeles-based rival Manatt, Phelps & Phillips for a pair of heavy-hitters in partners Jordan Hamburger and Eric Newsom, both of whom have joined Sheppard Mullin in Century City and San Francisco, respectively. Hamburger previously served as national co-head of the M&A group at Manatt Phelps, while Newsom was the former chair of the firm’s private equity and venture capital practice.
In April, Sheppard Mullin became the latest large firm to set up shop in Dallas after opening in the city with 10 partners hired from six firms. Sheppard Mullin also forged an alliance with a firm in Saudi Arabia and picked up former Barnes & Thornburg partner Sidney Fohrman to lead its music industry team in Century City. Sheppard Mullin has also watched some partners head for the door, with Perkins Coie snagging a pair of prominent partners in China and FisherBroyles bringing on partner Adam Ettinger, a former co-leader of its blockchain technology and digital currency team.