Williams & Connolly LLP
What has been the secret to your success as a leading US patent litigator?
Whatever success I have enjoyed is largely due to the brilliance, creativity and hard work of the wonderful lawyers I work with every day and to the productive collaborations, partnerships and friendships I have had with my clients.
What led you to establish your firm’s patent litigation practice and how have you managed its development over the years?
The first patent case that I worked on was a counterclaim to an antitrust case I was handling. The client, to my great surprise, asked me to work on the patent aspect of that case and then to handle another patent case – I became the firm’s ‘go-to’ for patent litigation. I loved working on those cases; the matters were interesting and complex – both factually and legally – there was a lot at stake and good lawyering could make a difference to the outcome. I decided to try to build a patent litigation practice at Williams & Connolly. I received tremendous support from the partnership but was lucky enough to realise that we needed to hire the best and the brightest Federal Circuit clerks to develop a sustainable practice. I joined and became an officer of the Federal Circuit Inn of Court, met a number of law clerks and somehow convinced some of the very best of them each year to take a chance on an interesting but fledgling practice in which they would get stand-up opportunities and which they could participate in building from the ground floor. The Federal Circuit clerks that we hired in the early years are now partners and have become the backbone of the practice; we continue our tradition of hiring incredibly talented individuals who want to become patent litigators. I enjoy mentoring younger lawyers and try to be available when needed, but I have also tried to give our lawyers every opportunity to develop their own trial skills, develop client relationships and grow independently. A large number of my partners have succeeded in developing their own practices at very young ages and I am confident that the practice will continue to grow long after I am gone.
You have represented some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies in multi-billion-dollar patent infringement suits. Which of these cases are you most proud of and why?
My goal in every case is to do the very best we possibly can for our clients and to help them obtain the best possible solution to their litigation problems. Whether the case is large or small, to the client and the inventors involved, the matter is always important and we treat every case as our highest priority. I am proud that my clients have given us the opportunity to represent them in some of their most important matters, and I am proud to work with and represent so many wonderful people at pharma companies, which every day are trying to improve our lives and health.
What are some of the biggest challenges that pharma companies face at present?
Over the past 100 years, the pharma industry – along with academic researchers and improvements in public health – have extended the average lifespan and health of the average person beyond our wildest imagination. My father, who recently turned 101, had a 50-year life expectancy when he was born. Many now estimate that my grandchildren will routinely live past 100. Much of the credit for this belongs to the pharma industry, and almost everyone I have had the pleasure to work with in Big Pharma is passionate about their mission of helping to improve the lives of patients. However, to carry out the research and sponsor the clinical trials necessary to bring a drug to the market costs staggering sums of money. It is easy for politicians to point to the cost of a successful drug and blame pharma for medical cost increases. But there is no free lunch – the few successes must pay for all the failures, or we will no longer have new life-saving drugs. This is both a PR and a political problem.
How do you see the US patent environment changing in the next five years?
Hopefully, jurisdictions such as Delaware, which are burdened with massive caseloads, will get relief though the appointment of more judges. Otherwise, I do not see any major changes on the immediate horizon.
Bruce R Genderson
Bruce Genderson founded and is the senior trial lawyer of Williams & Connolly’s patent litigation practice. He is nationally known for his work representing major corporations in patent disputes. Over the course of his 30-plus-year career, he has represented some of the world’s largest companies in patent infringement suits involving billion-dollar-a-year pharmaceuticals, complex biotechnology inventions, computers and electronics, and medical devices. Mr Genderson has represented a number of emerging companies in patent litigation in different industries.