Tuesday June 1, 2010
Billion-Dollar Lawyer Desmarais Quits Firm to Troll for Patents
By Carlyn Kolker
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June 1 (Bloomberg) — John Desmarais, a former top earner at the 1,500-lawyer firm Kirkland & Ellis, spent more than 15 years representing some of the world’s largest patent owners. Now he’s one of them, and he’s gearing up to slay the kinds of companies he once defended.
Desmarais, 46, in December bought a portfolio of 4,500 patents from Micron Technology Inc., the biggest U.S. maker of computer-memory chips. Today he opens the doors of a new law firm, New York-based Desmarais LLP, which will look for potential infringers of the patents owned by Round Rock Research LLC, his new patent-holding company.
The move is a leap from one side of the patent world to the other: from big-firm lawyer to small-firm chief, and from a champion of companies that makes real products to leading one that simply owns patents.
“It’s a huge change,” said Desmarais, who withdrew from Kirkland’s partnership and the firm’s management committee in December and left in May. “I never just get my toes wet doing something different. I jumped in with both feet.”
Round Rock, based in Mount Kisco, New York, is named for a formation near the beach in Madison, Connecticut, where Desmarais, who is married with two teenage children, has a vacation home. His 14-year-old daughter designed the company’s logo and his business card.
At Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, Desmarais built a reputation trying patent cases for large companies with hundreds of millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars at stake.
$1.5 Billion Verdict
He was the lead trial lawyer for Forest Laboratories Inc. in an effort to block Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. from selling a generic version of the antidepressant Lexapro. He represented Boston Scientific Corp. in litigation over patents for drug-coated stents. And he won a $1.52 billion verdict for Alcatel-Lucent against Microsoft in 2007, then the largest patent verdict. It was reversed, and Microsoft and Alcatel- Lucent later settled most of their patent dispute.
His skill lies in presenting scientific and technological concepts in a plain-spoken manner to a judge or jury, say clients and lawyers who have worked with him.
“He’s a fabulous trial attorney,” said Mallun Yen, vice president for worldwide intellectual property at Cisco Systems Inc., the biggest maker of networking equipment. “He is at complete ease in the courtroom and he has a likeability about him that spans across jurisdictions and judges and juries.”
Desmarais was raised in Hartford, Connecticut, and lived with his mother, who became a hairdresser after she and his father, a construction worker, divorced. He moved to Valhalla, New York, where he played high school football and met the cheerleader who became his wife.
Desmarais earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, and graduated from New York University School of Law in 1988.
He spent three years trying drug and bank robbery cases in the federal prosecutors’ office in Manhattan. That was followed by a job at a law firm specializing in intellectual property. Then Desmarais joined the New York office of Kirkland & Ellis in 1997.
“What we’re not going to do is reinvent the big law firm experience,” Desmarais said.
“It fills a market niche that doesn’t exist right now in legal services” Desmarais said.
The firm has hired three attorneys. It will probably reach about 12 lawyers by the end of the year and not exceed 25, Desmarais said.
“John has a keen business sense,” McKool said. “I think this is a terrific thing for John.”
–With assistance from Susan Decker in Washington and Ian King in San Francisco. Editors: Charles Carter, Mary Romano.
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Desmarais, John [MC????]
[JR: And, he going to hire some lawyers.]
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I believe that John is a member of the Class of 1985.
McEneney, Mike (MC1953)
[JR: Thanks, Mike. Much appreciated.]
Desmarais, John [MC1985]
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