Melissa Finocchio, Intellectual Ventures .
Melissa Finocchio, Intellectual Ventures . ()

In less than four years at Intellectual Ventures, where she is a VP and chief litigation counsel, Melissa Finocchio’s accomplishments include building a team of in-house litigators who’ve created a “formidable portfolio” of pending litigation and generated significant revenue through settlements. Finocchio, who graduated from Santa Clara University School of Law, started her legal career at Cooley and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Q: How’d you end up in this job?

A: At the time IV reached out to me, I had moved in-house and was managing patent, antitrust, and securities litigation for Micron Technology. As I learned more about IV, its business model, and the role they wanted me to take on, I quickly realized that I was being offered one of those “opportunities of a lifetime.”

Q: What should outside lawyers working for your company know about the business?

A: Our business model is similar to private equity or venture capital. But instead of investing in companies that get rehabilitated or nurtured along until an IPO or other monetization event, we invest in the actual inventions (patents) as our primary asset. We do this in a variety of ways—we build, buy and partner. We build by doing our own original inventing and thus far, our inventions have resulted in the spin-out of three unique start-up companies. We buy existing patents and applications from a wide variety of sources, including individual inventors to whom we’ve paid over half a billion dollars. Finally, we partner with researchers and individual inventors to help them develop their ideas into patentable inventions that can be monetized.

Q: Go-to law firms?

A: IV partners with truly exceptional litigators. We don’t hire firms, per se. We hire experienced and talented lawyers we know will work effectively with the in-house team and help deliver great results for the company. Some of these lawyers are Elizabeth Day and Ian Feinberg (Feinberg Day), John Desmarais (Desmarais LLP), Brooke Taylor (Susman Godfrey), Marty Black (Dechert), and Matt Powers (Tensegrity).

Q: What would you do if you weren’t doing this?

A: I have this half-baked idea that teaching high school literature would be very rewarding. I’ve probably just seen Dead Poets Society too many times.

Q: Workplace pet peeve?

A: Slide presentations as the primary means of professional communication. I find myself longing for the days of complete sentences and punctuation.

Q: Biggest gripe about outside lawyers?

A: I really dislike it when an outside attorney tempers his or her advice in some sort of effort to manage my expectations. My talented in-house team and I are experienced and accomplished litigators in our own right. We don’t need to be managed—we just need to hear direct and candid advice.

Q: Is the debate around changing patent laws and litigation practices overhyped or actionable?

A: IV absolutely supports efforts that would be effective to stop misconduct in patent litigation. The current legislative proposals, however, would apply to all patent litigation matters, and threaten to increase, rather than decrease, the complexity, cost, and duration of patent litigation for all participants. IV would like to see Congress slow down, hear from many more of the stakeholders who have an interest in these issues, and also consider whether U.S. district court judges, state attorneys general, and the Federal Trade Commission aren’t already empowered and better equipped to prevent or mitigate the sort of objectionable litigation conduct that’s at issue.