Law firm acquisition strengthens IP practice |

Law firm acquisition strengthens IP practice

Duane Johnson

Last September, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, acquired Watson Rounds, an intellectual property law firm in Reno.

So far, the transition has been seamless for the Reno firm.

At the same time, it does give the firm access to other areas of law expertise that Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck can provide.

“Part of the reason to join the Brownstein team was to access other areas of law in addition to intellectual property,” Francis said. “For instance, if we would get a bankruptcy case or a complex real estate transaction we may have shipped that off to another firm, now we have the ability to cross-market our perspective expertise so that’s been really beneficial to us.”

In addition to its intellectual property practice, Brownstein offers practice areas such as corporate and business law, gaming, and real estate.

Michael Rounds, co-founder of Watson Rounds, along with Francis and Arthur Zorio, have become shareholders of Brownstein.

For Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, headquartered in Denver, acquiring Watson Rounds was part of an aggressive plan that began in 2013 to expand its intellectual property practice in the western part of the United States. This has been especially important as the country’s technology sector has boomed along with startups since the recession. Northern Nevada in particular is at the forefront of that boom, with companies such as Tesla, Switch and others moving into the area.

“We’re really excited about being in the Brownstein platform and growing our business,” Francis said. “We have years and years of practicing in this area. We can assist tech companies moving into this area and located in other regions as well with their intellectual property needs.”

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck now has 11 offices around the United States and about 250 attorneys and policy professionals firmwide.

“Matt and I worked really hard to build Watson Rounds, along with Kelly Watson. We were cognizant of the marketplace and wanted to put this firm on a regional and national platform and I think we now offer that,” Rounds said. “I know that IP litigation remains one of the top practice areas in this market and nationally, and I think they (Brownstein) were happy with our expertise.”

Rounds indicated that prior to the merger, Watson Rounds marketed itself mostly by word of mouth. While he says that still rings true, the added marketing muscle the new parent company brings to the table is an added bonus.

“Brownstein has a sophisticated marketing strategy. We built our reputation by word of mouth, but it helps to have a strong marketing engine behind us now,” Rounds said.

With the startup and technology boom, intellectual property cases-those that involve patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets data and business methods- is becoming a hot market for attorneys.

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act signed into law by President Barack Obama and that went into effect in 2013, radically changed patent legislation. The law changed the U.S. patent system from “first to invent” to a “first inventor to file” system, meaning it shifts the documented date when an idea or products was invented to the date its inventor dropped an application to the U.S. patent office. Essentially, it doesn’t matter who came up with the idea first, but who filed it first.

The 2013 changes, as well as a number of recent Supreme Court decisions, have made patents tougher to acquire and enforce.“A number of patents that five years ago wouldn’t be under attack, would be invalid today under the new laws,” Rounds said.

While the effects of the new laws are debatable, Rounds and Francis said both attorneys and their clients need to do due diligence before introducing new technology. Rounds for instance, said the firm has represented a number of smart phone companies, that need to constantly keep up with existing patented technologies and patent law. ”It’s a sophisticated marketplace with numerous competitors and the companies need to know their intellectual property position at all times” Rounds said.

Rounds indicated that intellectual property litigation has now become a national scale, with companies who used to look at two or three law firms, now lookat several.

“I think the brand is going to carry us in the future,” Rounds said. “being in the larger firm gives us more looks and marketing opportunities.”


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