When this blog was new and I started out in independent practice about 12 years ago, Yitzchak Rachailovich, the patent attorney who was a key person in the patent prosecution practice of Dr Shlomo Cohen Law Office left that firm in less than amicable circumstances. I blogged about a law-suit between the parties as reported in Calcalist, the Marker and other Israeli business papers, but inadvertently referred to Yitzhak as being the Head of IP at the firm. Dr Cohen was less than happy and a long, drawn out and rather pointless lawsuit ensued.
I’d made a genuine mistake which I subsequently apologized for. As a patent attorney who focused on drafting and prosecuting patents, I thought of the terms patent prosecution and IP as practically synonyms. I was less aware of litigation and of trademark practice as I had done neither at that stage of my career.
Since then, I generally do not relate to the various law suits between Israel IP firms. The issues are rarely of an IP nature.
I note that everyone sponsoring the AIPPI conference who gave out flyers described themselves as leading. I am guilty of this myself. I describe myself as one of Israel’s leading patent attorneys in the about me box on this blog. In my defense, I have drafted a and successfully prosecuted a very large number of patent applications for Israel’s largest companies and for other International companies. Am I a leader? Well my blog has hundreds of followers. However, I can’t even definitely claim to be Israel’s leading IP blogger. After all, Chaim Ravia has a Hebrew language law blog and IP is one of his interests, Ziv Glazberg has an IP blog in Hebrew and Neil Wilkof writes for the IPKAT and other well established international blogs.
Neil Wilkof is a world leader in trademark licensing. He was formerly a partner in Herzog Fox Neeman (HFN), perhaps Israel’s premier law firm. This should qualify him to be a leading IP practitioner. However his practice and mine have little in common. Despite his knowledge and success, Wilkof’s name is very rarely associated with Israel trademark oppositions or court rulings.
With copyright, one thinks of Tony Greenman as something of an expert, and Gilad Corinaldi comes to mind as having successfully fought some high-profile litigation in recent years.
In his brochures at the AIPPI conference, Liad Whatstein, a gifted and capable patent litigator who has recently started his own firm was advertising the relatively new IP Firm as Internationally Recognized as Israel’s Foremost IP firm. Aping the Israel Patent Office Annual Reports, his flyer is resplendent with simple origami figures.
However, there isn’t a single employee of the firm that writes patent applications. That does not mean that the firm isn’t a leading firm in some areas, but the foremost firm? To a patent attorney like myself, for a firm to call itself the foremost or leading IP firm, it should have some patent drafting capability. I suspect that like other practitioners, the attorney in question was very aware of what he does, but tends to discount other types of practice as trivial. I asked Liad how he could claim that his relatively new company is internationally recognized as Israel’s foremost IP firm and he retorted that he sees his firm as a continuation of the preceding firm and I should just look at his client list. I suspect that Dr Shlomo Cohen himself is not the only resource of the previous firm that is not part of Liad Watstein’s current practice.
Between Rachailovich and Whatstein, others have left Dr Cohen’s firm, including Eran Liss and Dan Adin who have also written a book titled Intellectual Property Law and Practice in Israel which no doubt makes them leading practitioners as well. With very few exceptions, most IP firms in Israel have broken away from other, earlier established practices. The clients tend to have loyalty to attorneys and not to firms, but the parent company usually survives and often flourishes. From a quick name-count on Dr Shlomo Cohen’s website it appears that that firm still has three times as much staff as Whatstein’s does. One imagines that the staff serve clients. With a one to three ratio in staff, maybe Whatstein is about a quarter of the size of the former firm. Maybe not.
I am sure that Liad Whatstein does indeed have many well-known companies among his clients. However, this is true of very many other Israel firms as well. Although my litigation experience is limited, I’ve drafted patent applications for many well-known Israeli firms such as Teva, Rav Bareakh, Israel Aircraft Industries, Iscar, Israel Military Industries, Delta, Harsa, etc. I have clients on Nasdaq, and have represented some of Israel’s most successful serial inventors. (I’ve represented a cereal inventor as well, with
an amazing a maize invnetion (appologizing for the corny joke) and thus filed in Argentina under the Paris Convention . I have written patent applications for Fortune 500 international companies such as Siemens as well. However, I am not the only IP practitioner that most of these companies use, even for patent drafting. I am sure that they have referred work to other IP firms. I suspect that this is true of Whatstein’s clients as well, some of whom no doubt see him as their contact person for litigation in Israel but I suspect do not use his firm to draft patent applications or to decide on global IP strategy.
There are lots of well-known Israeli firms that use other patent attorneys to draft their applications. And who says that having well-known clients matters anyway? When I mentioned to a leading trademark expert that I’d recently written a patent application for one of his important clients, he correctly chided me and noted that all his clients are important. He is, of course, correct. I do write applications for public limited companies on Nasdaq, but also work for start-ups and for established companies that are known in their fields, but not necessarily well-known to the public at large, and suspect that this is true of the practices of many colleagues and competitors.
Adv. Adi Levit does not seem to have many clients apart from Camtek and Unipharm, and I am sure that he has fewer clients than Liad Whatstein. Furthermore, his clientele is local rather than international. Nevertheless, as the litigator for Unipharm, Levit has had some very impressive results, including obtaining the recent ruling against Sanofi that Whatstein is apparently appealing and is correct in noting has no legal precedent or support in the Law. Both Levit and Judge Grosskopf who gave the ruling know that this is the case. Not only is it a local precedent but I am not sure that there have been rulings like it in other jurisdictions. To my mind this only makes their achievement more impressive. If you are able to make a good living from one or two clients do you need more? Levit and Unipharm seem to invalidate a different blockbuster drug each year and have successfully taken on Pfizer, Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb and Smithkline Beecham. It is clear which side has the foremost clients, but I am not sure that merely because Adv. Levit works for the generic pharma industry rather than for drug development companies (unlike Dr Cohen, Gilat Bareket, Luthi and Whatstein) he is any lesser a patent litigator.
Many firms do a fair amount of drafting, litigating and enforcement of patents and trademarks. They may not necessarily be the leading firm in any specific area, but have all-round competence. I am sure that such firms do consider themselves as Israel’s leading firm, and provided one creatively clarifies what the term leading means, no doubt all these firms qualify.
PCZL (Pearl Cohen) advertise themselves as offering a cradle-to-grave solution. They draft, prosecute and litigate. However, I think that this causes problems rather than solving them, as they cannot cross-examine and file dispositions of their colleagues. I suspect that if an independent litigator had considered the strengths of patents they had written and attempted to litigate, some recent cases they’ve handled would not have been brought to court at all.
So who is the leading IP firm in Israel? No idea. Despite not being a fourth generation tea blender and not being Israel’s oldest or largest tea blender, I am fairly sure that I am Israel’s foremost blender and distributor of PCTeabags.