Intellectual Property Today Ranks Top Patent Law Firms for 2010

By Gene Quinn
March 9, 2010

Intellectual Property Today has once again come out with its much anticipated list of the top patent law firms. The 2010 list has many of the usual suspects on it, and the complete list of patent law firms is available in PDF for $25. You can also obtain the list by getting a copy of the March 2010 IP Today magazine, which will be provided on a complimentary basis while supplies last for those who subscribe to IP Today.

Even if you are not interested in the entire list, I do recommend visiting the IPToday.com blog where the top 25 patent firms are listed, together with information on the number of patents obtained during by these firms in 2007, 2008 and 2009, along with a percent increase in 2009 over 2008.

At the top of the list was Oblon Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, LLP, with 4043 utility patents, 72 design patents, which represents an increase of 6.5% in 2009 over 2008.  When reached for comment Bradley D. Lytle, Partner, and Member of the firm’s Management Committee told me:

We are proud of our record accomplishment of obtaining over 4000 U.S. patents in 2009, the most by any law firm. In a challenging year of economic downturn affecting companies, law firms and the USPTO, we view our success as a product of the dedicated efforts of our staff to work collaboratively and effectively with the USPTO and our clients to promptly identify allowable subject matter of sufficient scope to protect our clients’ innovation.

Without further ado, the Top 25 according to IPToday are:

  1. Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, L.L.P.
  2. Sughrue Mion, PLLC
  3. Birch, Stewart, Kolasch & Birch, LLP
  4. Oliff & Berridge, PLC
  5. Harness, Dickey & Pierce PLC
  6. Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto
  7. Fish & Richardson
  8. Townsend and Townsend and Crew LLP
  9. Blakely Sokoloff Taylor & Zafman LLP
  10. Nixon & Vanderhye P.C.
  11. McDermott Will & Emery LLP
  12. Foley & Lardner LLP
  13. Cantor Colburn LLP
  14. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP
  15. Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear LLP
  16. Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione
  17. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, P.C.
  18. Staas & Halsey LLP
  19. Wenderoth, Lind & Ponack, L.L.P.
  20. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
  21. Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, P.A.
  22. Merchant & Gould
  23. Kenyon & Kenyon LLP and Workman Nydegger, P.C.
  24. Baker Botts L.L.P.

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a Patent Attorney and Editor and President & CEO ofIPWatchdog, Inc.. Gene founded IPWatchdog.com in 1999. Gene is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and Of Counsel to the law firm of Berenato & White, LLC. Gene’s specialty is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He consults with attorneys facing peculiar procedural issues at the Patent Office, advises investors and executives on patent law changes and pending litigation matters, and works with start-up businesses throughout the United States and around the world, primarily dealing with software and computer related innovations. is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. CLICK HERE to send Gene a message.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 17 Comments comments.

  1. Steve M March 9, 2010 9:33 pm

    What’s important isn’t the volume of work, but the quality.

    “Top” is in this case an obvious and misplaced misnomer.

    “Highest Volume” Patent Firms would be more accurate . . . and more fair to the profession as a whole.

  2. Jason March 9, 2010 9:46 pm

    Steve M,

    We get it, your firm didn’t make the list…lol

  3. Alan F March 9, 2010 10:16 pm

    Steve M is right – quantity is not the same as quality.

    Does IP Today do any international rankings, or is this like the World Series, where the top US firm is automatically the “Top Patent Firm”?

  4. step back March 10, 2010 5:09 am

    Steve M is right – quantity is not the same as quality.

  5. hotboxing examiner March 10, 2010 9:57 am

    “quantity is not the same as quality.”

    When I look at a sample of 5 Oblon patents, they all appear pretty high quality to me. Claims use good format, nothing too narrow, spec in good English and laid out clearly, several references cited on face, 1-2 rounds of prosecution each. etc. So maybe quantity is sometimes also quality?

    If anything, I think the list really helps determine which large firms are focused on prosecution (top 5), and which do more litigation and transactional work (Finnegan, Fish, Kenyon, etc.).

  6. James March 10, 2010 10:15 am

    It depends on how you define a “top patent firm.”

    If a top patent firm is defined by the quality of the patents, this list is probably a good representation of top patent firms. The fact that these firms churn out a consistent amount of patents each year shows that companies trust these firms. Also, practice makes perfect. Many of these firms are patent prosecution factories – the attorneys working there are trained to do prosecution well. Even if many of these firms employ first-year and second-year associates to do the bulk of patent prosecution work, these associates will be very experienced and skilled after a year at these factories.

    With that said, if a top patent firm is defined by the quality of the firm (including well-rounded lawyers, breadth of experience, work-life balance/happiness of the lawyers) and by the quality of the patents, then I’m pretty sure this list is not a good representation of top patent firms. For example, Oliff & Berridge, ranked #4, has a reputation of working their associates like slaves/robots. While the quality of its patents may be excellent, the quality of the firm as a whole is doubtful. There are stories about this firm, you can google them. They might or might not still be true. The rumor is that this firm has prosaic, rigid policies that would make an associate that works at a well-balanced and well-managed firm cringe. On the other hand, while Finnegan Henderson, ranked ten places behind Oliff, will also work associates hard, all reports show that the firm is well-managed and tries hard to keep associates happy. Finnegan, Fish & Richardson, and Knobbe Martens are also the most balanced in terms of practice areas – they are good at both patent litigation (in district courts, ITC, and Fed Circuit). It is hard to say whether or not the top 5 firms in this list have the lawyers and resources to handle litigation cases in all three forums.

  7. Top 10 Guy March 10, 2010 12:23 pm

    As a new associate at one of the top 10 firms, I am always surprised by how few people (mostly fellow lawyers) have heard of the top 5-10 firms on this list. Indeed, even during law school, Fish & Rishardson was the only firm in the top 10 I had heard of.

    Clearly, people in the industry and corporate IP counsels must be very familiar with the top 10, based on all the work being sent there. I’m also willing to bet that profits per partner at the top 10 are in the same league as many biglaw shops. It’s just curious that these firms don’t have name recognition elsewhere in the legal industry. Too specialized?

  8. JohnDarling March 10, 2010 4:18 pm

    Top 10 Guy,

    Quite a few of the associates who leave those top 10 firms go in-house. Guess where they send their prosecution work. Even those who worked at firms that some may consider not “well balanced” send their work back to their former firms.

    JD

  9. step back March 10, 2010 4:49 pm

    JD,

    Off topic, but did you see that joke making its way around the internet, the one about the Navy Officer?

    IIRC:
    Navy Officer: You deck hand, come here. What’s your name?
    Enlisted man: John sir.
    Navy Officer: How dare you. In the Navy, officers address the enlisted only by their last names. We are not cozy buddies here. What’s your last name?
    Enlisted man: It’s Darling sir, John Darling.
    Navy Officer: OK John, can you give me a hand lifting this equipment?
    ***

  10. Steve M March 10, 2010 4:56 pm

    Thanks “Jason,” but I’m a pro se; and one who’s been very pleased with the excellent thoughts, ideas, information, and recommendations I’ve received from the two independent, sole-attorney firms I’ve worked with from time to time over these past 6+ years.

    Frankly, I wouldn’t work with any firm on such a “Top (volume) Firms” list.

    And I suppose they wouldn’t care much about having my business anyway . . .

    . . . though you’d sure never see me asking any of them to “pump out” work for some ridiculously low flat fee . . . as if all inventions could or should be stuffed into the same “one fee fits all” box.

  11. JohnDarling March 11, 2010 9:35 am

    step back,

    I have heard that one. 🙂

    JD

  12. Gene Quinn March 11, 2010 9:49 am

    I understand what many on the list are saying. Top volume does not necessarily mean top quality. Having said that, a firm that has these types of volume must be keeping its clients happy on at least some level otherwise they would not have the volume, particularly in what is becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace at the top, what I have from time to time referred to as the mahogany table, marble floor firms.

    I am sure everyone knows why these types of lists are put together, whether it be in our niche or when ESPN does it. It generates buzz and discussion.

    All of this begs the question though, which in my mind is how do you determine the best or “top quality” firms? How would you determine the “top value firms”? I would define “top value firms” as those that provide appropriate quality (subjective I know) light of cost. So a balance of cost vs. quality.

    Just wondering if this could even be accomplished.

    -Gene

  13. broje March 11, 2010 1:41 pm

    As someone who used to work at one of those top ten firms, I can tell you that prosecuting applications of foreign origin on a volume basis generates a lot of numbers towards making that list. Meanwhile, if you do work for one of the many US corporations that requires you to list them as the correspondence address, you get no credit towards making that list when the patent issues.

  14. step back March 11, 2010 3:51 pm

    The quality of a patent application is generally not known or tested until about 10 years after it’s been filed. That’s when the law suit (or licensing negotiation) usually hits the fan. By that time, many a quick turn-around artist type lawyers have already flown the coop. They’ve changed careers and are now selling default swap derivatives on Wall Street for much better pay.

    There are high quality patents and then there are crap ones. You find out when the stuff hits the fan.

    (Personally, I’ve had a couple of patent apps I wrote about 10 years ago recently tested. Usually I get a polite pat on the back during the deposition from the ex-client (they’ve found cheaper counsel) with an added excuse line like: “Thanks, we now realize you did a good job back then 10 years ago and we’re going to rake in millions off this patent as a result; but unfortunately we are not going to employ you because we are penny wise people; no, make that, we are penny genius people. But thanks again and bye bye.’)

  15. step back March 11, 2010 4:52 pm

    Speaking of quality, I was just quickly going through the Ex parte Frye decision at that “other” blog site, you know:
    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2010/03/the-bpais-standard-of-review-for-examiner-rejections.html

    and it seems that one of the inventor’s problems was a hastily prepared drawing. Not clear if this was a case of penny wise and pound foolish. Stuff like that happens all the time, especially in those volume prepared cases.

  16. Top 10 Guy March 12, 2010 1:02 pm

    Speaking of firms. Word on the street is that Darby just dissolved. Crazy times.

  17. dallas patent lawyer December 31, 2012 4:38 am

    The quality of a patent application is generally not known or tested until about 10 years after it’s been filed. That’s when the law suit (or licensing negotiation) usually hits the fan. By that time, many a quick turn-around artist type lawyers have already flown the coop. They’ve changed careers and are now selling default swap derivatives on Wall Street for much better pay.