U.S. News Ranks Top Patent, Copryight & Trademark Law Firms

By Gene Quinn on November 1, 2011

Earlier today U.S. News & World Report published its Best Lawyers list for 2011-2012.  The rankings broke firms into 75 national practice areas, and for the first time ever identified the “Firm of the Year” in each of those practice areas.

There was little information revealed relating to how U.S. News & World Report evaluated firms and settled upon its various lists. The blog post announcing the list simply said that “topics of evaluation were a firm’s expertise, responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, and civility, and whether it deserved to be recommended for work.”

Of course, these lists never give any love to the small or mid-size firms that provide high quality legal work at a reasonable cost to clients.   But that is only one of the things that will raise some eyebrows.  U.S. News included Howrey LLP in the top tier for intellectual property litigation, but the firm dissolved on March 15, 2011, hardly 10 weeks into 2011.  So how exactly does that qualify Howrey, a firm that no longer exists, for top tier ranking?  That alone will cause some to scratch their heads and wonder exactly what U.S. New was thinking.

The lists relating to patent law, copyright law, trademark law and intellectual property litigation do have many of the familiar names that you would expect to see, but there do seem to be some rather glaring omissions.  I don’t know how you can have a list like this and not have either Birch Stewart Kolasch & Birch and Oblon Spivak on the list.  Just off the top of my head I would have also included Nixon Peabody, Sughrue Mion, Pillsbury and Faegre & Benson on one list or another.

So which firms do you think deserve top tier recognition but were snubbed?

Without further ado, here are the patent, copyright, trademark and intellectual property litigation lists.

Tier 1 Patent Law Firms (in alphabetical order)

Tier 1 Copyright Law Firms (in alphabetical order)

Tier 1 Trademark Law Firms (in alphabetical order)

Tier 1 Intellectual Property Litigation Firms (in alphabetical order)

The Author

Gene Quinn

Gene Quinn is a patent attorney and the founder of IPWatchdog.com. He is also a principal lecturer in the PLI Patent Bar Review Course and an attorney with Widerman & Malek.

Gene’s particular specialty as a patent attorney is in the area of strategic patent consulting, patent application drafting and patent prosecution. He has worked with independent inventors and start-up businesses in a variety of different technology fields, but specializes in software, systems and electronics.

is admitted to practice law in New Hampshire, is a Registered Patent Attorney licensed to practice before the United States Patent Office and is also admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Gene is a graduate of Franklin Pierce Law Center and holds both a J.D. and an LL.M. Prior to law school he graduated from Rutgers University with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.

You can contact Gene via e-mail.

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 13 Comments comments.

  1. patent leather November 1, 2011 5:34 pm

    This list is a bunch of nonsense. Law schools at least are more amenable to being ranked because at least there is reliable data on the entire student body, employment, faculty, etc. Their methodology also disses the small firms (many of which probabably do equal or better quality work than the tier 1 firms), which in these tough economic times, are becoming a better alternative to the big guys.

    The worst part about this list is that some people may choose to contact the tier 1 firms thinking they are really the best, to the detriment of the unlisted or smaller firms. The small inventor who contacts one of the tier 1 patent firms who wants a patent done will probalby be in for a rude awakening, both in costs and the lack of attention they will get.

  2. Gene Quinn November 1, 2011 5:43 pm

    patent leather-

    I agree with what you write.

    Any ideas about how to rank or identify quality small and mid-size law firms to get them some love?


  3. Chris November 1, 2011 5:50 pm

    they do the same thing with colleges and universities, and even individual departments in universitites. When one figures out the formula used, there are any number of ways to game the system to make your school a notch or ten higher on the list. Some of those things legitimately make the school better, but some are just “creative accounting tricks” and have no real merit.

    I am sure the same thing is true of this list. Knowing a little about how the similar college rankings work, one of the big criteria for ranking patent law firms is probably the number of attorneys/registered agents, which may explain some of the rankings. Indeed, the little guys probably have very little chance to get a high ranking.

    I would agree that the rankings are generally not all they’re cracked up to be.

  4. Tim November 2, 2011 9:17 am

    What if there already is a quality small/mid-size firm(s) on the list? Seem like there is….

  5. Steve M November 2, 2011 11:48 am

    Without providing the criteria they used for their rankings, these lists–because they are accordingly terribly misleading to those looking for legal representation–are much worse than a big waste of time.

    Even beyond the important consideration of cost; what’s most critical are factors like breadth/depth of scope of coverage/ protection obtained for their IP creator/ inventor clients, time and response effectiveness of office actions; and litigation guidance, effectiveness, and results.

    Factors very, very difficult to measure and compare between different firms; likely none of which were taken in consideration by U.S. News.

  6. Mike November 2, 2011 1:11 pm

    For patent firms, what about firms like MBHB, snr denton. and Quarles and Brady? These lists are weird.

  7. Judith_IP November 2, 2011 3:48 pm

    Interesting to note how little overlap this list has with the IPToday list you posted a few months ago.

  8. Judith_IP November 2, 2011 3:51 pm

    I’d definitely include Blakely Sokoloff as well as Fenwick & West as top tier patent firms.

  9. EG November 2, 2011 5:02 pm

    These “lists” are strictly based on firm size and whether the firm does litigation. For example, what about Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, one of the largest strictly prep and pros IP boutiques?

    Frankly, I’m not worried about these “lists.” For most solo/small IP boutiques, the word gets around to most prospective clients as to which know what they’re doing/do a good job, charge reasonable rates/fees, provide personal attention to clients, etc. That’s good enough for me.

  10. Mr. Xaminer November 2, 2011 7:13 pm

    As an examiner I deal with several attorneys from many of the “TOP” firms listed above and I can tell you, in many instances, applications filed from them are horrible, yes absolutely HORRIBLE!! Several errors in the spec, drawings and claims replete with 112 2nds, etc. etc. I often wonder why clients pay thousands for garbage applications, especially from the the “big boys”. Usually, in many instances, the best attorneys (who actually seem to know what they are doing during prosecution) are from smaller firms in say (but certainly not limited to) the industrial mid-west region. Also, just to mention, Birch Stewart and Oblon Spivak attorneys (NOT ON THE LIST) are generally very cooperative to advance prosecution and submit patent applications that actually have been proofread. Oh… but not on the list? What a joke.

  11. Grand Chef November 2, 2011 10:15 pm

    Gene Quinn Esq. you seem to be a very good attorney but what happened your law firm is not represented?

  12. EG November 3, 2011 7:47 am

    Mr. Xaminer,

    Thanks for your astute comment. What your say confirms what I’ve seen of the listed “top firms”: their primary experience and focus is with litigation, not patent prosecution. From what I saw when I started in practice over 34 years ago, most IP litigation dominant firms simply give their junior people a year or two of experience in patent prosecution to understand (sort of) what happens but never really “train them” on how to do it welI. I was primarily trained in a large corporate patent department at Procter & Gamble, plus in my dad’s firm (the former Cushman, Darby & Cushman) for 7 summers learning the practice from the ground up.

    I know Oblon Spivak focuses on patent prosecution (and has many clients outside the U.S.) and has a well-earned reputation for “sweating the details.” Schwegman, Lundberg and Woessner also focus on strictly on prep and pros and it shows. Many of us solos/small IP boutiques could show these listed “top firms” a thing or two about how to do prep and pros better. Again, I’m not worried about these “lists” as far as my practice is concerned (which is currently doing well and I don’t even “list” with the yellow pages which is a complete waste for me).

  13. NWPA May 2, 2014 1:51 pm

    Good to hear of your history EG.