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Five tales from the North America Awards



James Nurton


This week’s North America Awards recognised the outstanding firms and individuals in IP work in the United States and Canada. In today’s blog we pick out some of the highlights

Two timely trophies

Bob ArmitageLast night’s North America Awards were nothing if not topical. In an innovation this year, we presented awards to outstanding litigators in various US states. The winner in New York was Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. Earlier in the day, the US Supreme Court published its Kirtsaeng v John Wiley & Sons decision, in which it reversed the Second Circuit and backed Rosenkranz’s client. Another award last night – for IP thought leader – went to Mark Lemley of Durie Tangri and Stanford Law School. Lemley was recognised among other things for his amicus briefs – one of which was cited by the Court in the Kirtsaeng opinion.

To be Frank

Those who have attended our awards dinners in the past will know that we always explain why winners have been chosen, and try to give examples of outstanding work. My favourite case from last night’s ceremony was one that trade mark prosecution winner Fross Zelnick worked on. The firm acts for the estate of Frank Sinatra, and last year took action against a frankfurter seller named – wait for it – Frans Anatra.

An Apple a day …

Alan Drewsen and Kathryn Barrett ParkApart from being an opportunity to recognise outstanding achievement in IP, our annual awards dinners also serve as a barometer of where the work is. The name that kept coming up last night was Apple. The company itself won awards for its in-house patent and trade mark team (reflecting its successes in smartphone patent litigation and in securing a trade mark for its store design) while law firms Morrison & Foerster and WilmerHale won for their part in securing a $1 billion jury verdict against Samsung (though the award is of course now under review). But the Cupertino computer company didn’t have everything its own way: law firm McKool Smith was also recognised for its litigation work – including a $369 million win for VirnetX against Apple.

Just say thanks

Our three VIP awards are not just an opportunity to celebrate outstanding and career achievements in IP (last night’s winners were Alan Drewsen of INTA, Bob Armitage of Eli Lilly and David Kappos formerly of the USPTO) but also to hear some anecdotes from and about each of the winners. The biggest laugh of the evening probably came in response to Drewsen’s self-mocking story that involved an ex-girlfriend, her daughters, an absent husband, a visit to the Bronx Zoo and two elderly people. I won’t recount it in full here, but the moral was: sometimes you can try to explain too much. Better just to say "thank you".

David Kappos and USPTO staffPatent reform by PowerPoint

Bob Armitage’s award was presented to him by Eli Lilly’s patent counsel Doug Norman who paid tribute to his former boss’s tireless work on patent reform. Armitage started to argue that the US should adopt a first-to-file system some 30 years ago – a dream that was finally realised last Saturday – and it was him (or, apparently, his wife) who coined the term first-inventor-to-file. But Norman noted that Armitage was also known for his attractive and informative slide shows, featuring charts, animations and even audio. Many times, said Norman, he had emailed a plain, monochrome presentation to Armitage for review only to see an all-singing, all-dancing version returned to him. When Armitage retired, said Norman, "I didn’t just lose my boss, I lost the best executive assistant you could ever have".

Visit Managing IP's Facebook page for more photos from the North America Awards.

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