William Woodford

As founder of Avantech Law, what does inspiring leadership look like to you and how do you manage the firm to ensure clients receive the best service while all staff fulfil their potential?

Inspiring leadership is a fusion of vision and empowerment. An exemplary leader not only charts a clear path for the future, but also cultivates, recognises and values the unique contributions of every team member. Guided by this philosophy, we are committed to creating an atmosphere in which every voice is valued and extraordinary effort is acknowledged. We also champion flexibility, allowing our team members to choose their optimal work environment and adjust their hours to create a work-life equilibrium. To complement this, we prioritise professional development and integrate cutting-edge legal technology into our workflows to ensure that our team operates at the height of efficiency and generates top-tier work product.

You have won praise for your experience in high-stakes patent litigation. In your view, what are the three key skills that successful litigators must have?

Successful litigators must be adept at:

  • maintaining an unwavering focus on client objectives to avoid becoming mired in minutiae that will have little – if any – impact on the outcome;
  • swiftly breaking down intricate technical and legal information to identify the key issues in the case; and
  • crafting case themes that spotlight strengths while tactfully addressing vulnerabilities.

While effective oral advocacy and trial presentation are undeniably vital, they are only possible once one masters these three foundational skills.

There is increasing talk about how arbitration might be used to settle SEP/FRAND disputes – what are some of the pros and cons of using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in this space?

There are several advantages to ADR in SEP/FRAND disputes. It offers a unique opportunity to select an arbitration panel that has niche expertise in SEP/FRAND disputes. It also provides a swifter resolution, often culminating in months compared to years of litigation. ADR is also more cost effective due to streamlined discovery.

However, efficiency is not without its problems. The most telling evidence in such disputes is often prior licensing records, detailed contentions pinpointing how the asserted patents cover some aspect of the standard and deposition testimony, which elucidates patent holders’ rationales behind the SEP licensing fees in previous transactions. The curtailed discovery in ADR could hinder the unearthing of such pivotal evidence. The elimination of the opportunity to discover such evidence, coupled with the absence of appellate oversight, can make ADR a precarious choice – especially in high-stakes scenarios and in cases where the outcome could subsequently set a precedent for SEP/FRAND rates.

What has been your most memorable case to date – and why?

One case that stands out involved Halo Electronics, a close-knit family business and one of my earliest clients. Halo had developed and patented an electrical component that is pivotal for ethernet connections – only to see it copied by competitors. Through a series of lawsuits, we brokered settlement and licence agreements with most of the infringers and ultimately secured a trial win and injunction against Halo’s largest competitor. This case was unforgettable, not just because of the positive outcome for a small company, but also the trail-blazing legal challenges that it presented. One such hurdle led us on a journey to the Supreme Court, where we successfully established a new standard for enhancing damages in cases of wilful patent infringement.

If you could change anything about the US enforcement landscape, what would it be, and do you think it is likely to happen?

The US enforcement landscape can be summarised as expensive, protracted and uncertain. While the inherent complexities of patent litigation account for some costs, there is a pressing need for clarity on certain legal issues, which is coupled with standardised procedures to streamline case management. For example, both patent owners and accused infringers will benefit from more consistent and clear guidance on the muddled state of subject-matter eligibility. Further, more clarity on patent damages – which are now more stringent than damages in other areas – would also reduce litigation costs and pave the way for early resolution.

Introducing a specialised patent court for pre-trial case management could address these challenges and curtail forum shopping. By standardising pre-trial procedures, we could diminish variability and enhance efficiency while still allowing trials to unfold in their original jurisdictions. While the prospect of a dedicated court may seem remote, we already have the Federal Circuit and Congress recently created the PTAB. Given the current trajectory, it’s conceivable that a similar initiative could gain momentum.

William Woodford

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William Woodford is an IP lawyer with 20 years’ experience handling high-stakes litigation. He has also led numerous appeals, including the landmark case Halo Electronics. Over the past two decades, Mr Woodford has analysed and valued thousands of patents for potential enforcement, commercialisation and sale. He has also worked with numerous clients on the development of worldwide patent portfolios to protect mission-critical technology.   

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