Douglas Wilson and Michelle Armond, Armond Wilson

Michelle Armond and Douglas Wilson met 15 years ago while applying for clerkships at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. They spent a year and a half clerking together for Judge Richard Linn. “It was really fun to be there, to work on important cases and be at the forefront of patent law,” Armond says.

The two went on to become partners at different intellectual property firms: Armond at California’s Knobbe Martens, Wilson at Texas’ Heim, Payne & Chorush.

But they’ve stayed in touch over the years, and now they’re joining forces to open Armond Wilson, an IP firm that will focus on the administrative challenges to patent validity at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. They’ll also handle appeals of those cases, known as IPRs, to the Federal Circuit.

Armond and Wilson say the time is right to take advantage of a market shift that puts smaller firms on stronger footing. “PTAB litigation is now the forefront of patent litigation, but these cases are much different than traditional district court litigation,” Armond says. “You have smaller cases, they’re highly technical, and they’re immediately appealed to the Federal Circuit.”

“It doesn’t take an army of lawyers to win an IPR, it just takes talent,” says Wilson. A small firm, with more flexible billing arrangements, “is an advantage in the IPR practice.”

IPRs have kept them both busy. Armond won a Federal Circuit ruling last year upholding a PTAB judgment she obtained for Spectrum Brands in a mobile device security case. Wilson will appear before the Federal Circuit on June 3 to defend three PTAB judgments on behalf of oilfield services company Weatherford International.

Armond will continue to work from Irvine and Wilson from Austin, though the two expect to spend a lot of time in Washington. They represent both petitioners and patent owners, and expect to take some cases from start to finish while handling just appeals in others. They also expect to continue practicing in district court.

Armond has an electrical engineering degree from the California Institute of Technology and a J.D. from University of California, Berkeley. She started her career at Irell & Manella, and at Knobbe was co-chair of the firm’s Patent Office litigation practice with Brent Babcock, who joined Womble Bond Dickinson last fall. Wilson describes Armond as having a strong grasp on clients’ business interests and cost-effective patent strategies for them.

“Knobbe was a great fit for me,” Armond said. “Building and leading Knobbe’s patent office litigation practice group with Brent was a highlight. But after 12 years it was time for me to leave.”

Wilson has a chemical engineering degree from Lamar University and spent four years at Fina Oil and Chemical Co. before getting his law degree at the University of Texas. He started his law career at Conley Rose, and joined the group that spun off in 2006 to create Heim Payne. He practices both patent and antitrust litigation, with much of his recent focus on IPRs.

“We had developed very similar practices independently,” Armond said. “It’s kind of like we’ve come full circle. We started our careers together, and now we’re starting this next chapter together.”

Along with being engineers and registered patent attorneys, they share another characteristic. “We take our law practice very seriously, but we don’t actually take ourselves very seriously,” Armond says. “We have a lot of fun at the office. Every day something very entertaining happens, and we enjoy that.”