Patterson Thuente: IP Litigation Reimagined

Tom Dickson and Jeffer Al
Tom Dickson and Jeffer Al

... We generally work in teams of only two to four lawyers per case. Every lawyer on the file understands every aspect of the case, and that means newer lawyers get experience right away.

The attorneys at Patterson Thuente IP are themselves original thinkers and innovators. As champions of good ideas both in and out of the courtroom, they bring diverse viewpoints and knowledge derived from a spectrum of scientific and technological disciplines, all focused on crafting bespoke solutions for clients in Minnesota and around the world.

In a time of rapid global change, the need for reliable counsel and strategic litigation is greater than ever before. Rather than reacting to events taking place in the business environment, Patterson Thuente is anticipating change and placing its clients ahead of the trends with prudent advice and decisive plans of action. In order to deliver these services on demand, the firm is expanding, investing in people with an emphasis on human diversity, varied skills and a passion for novel ideas.

Jeffer Ali is the firm’s litigation practice chair and one of four attorneys who joined Patterson Thuente in 2021. A doctor of pharmacy, who practiced in the field prior to entering the legal profession, Ali brings real-world insights and more than 25 years of litigation experience to matters spanning patent, trademark, copyright and trade secrets disputes for innovative technology companies in the pharmaceutical, medical device, software and manufacturing sectors.

According to Ali, the firm’s commitment to expanding the litigation department was one of the key factors that brought him to Patterson Thuente. “We get great support from management, but also a lot of discretion and autonomy in terms of what resources we need and how to structure the department. I knew Jim (Patterson) before, and when I met the rest of management, I was impressed by their commitment to litigation. We have a deep bench of subject matter expertise within the firm and a good client base, both domestic and international. We get a lot of interesting litigation and enforcement-related work from institutional clients as well as new clients. The other main reason for coming here was to work with smart people in the subject matter areas in which we practice. It was combination of those things that attracted me.”

Thus far, Ali manages three IP litigation associates – Nicholas Kuhlmann, Ariel Howe and Kyle Doerrler. Each of these attorneys brings a unique and valuable skillset to the firm.

Patterson Thuente IP Litigation Team
Jeffer Ali and Tom Dickson

Prior to his legal career, Kuhlmann was an organic chemist at 3M. He is a registered patent attorney with extensive experience in intellectual property and commercial matters, from patent and trademark prosecution to litigation and trial.

Howe is a chemist and technologist with experience working in the corporate environment and as an entrepreneur. Her practice focuses primarily on litigation involving patent and trademark infringement.

With a background in software and network security, Doerrler brings valuable technical experience with software-related innovations, from network security and encryption to medical device telemetry, to the team. He works on various litigation-related matters, including IP litigation relating to complex software.

Ali also has the firm’s entire prosecution team as his technical bench.

Living a Life-Long Dream

Jeffer Ali

“When I tell potential candidates what I’m looking for and what opportunities are here for litigators, I emphasize what distinguishes this firm from other firms.

“When I tell potential candidates what I’m looking for and what opportunities are here for litigators, I emphasize what distinguishes this firm from other firms,” Ali says. “Here, we generally work in teams of only two to four lawyers per case. Every lawyer on the file understands every aspect of the case, and that means newer lawyers get experience right away. They get significant experience much more quickly than in a big firm. Where at a big firm, they might work on a case for a Fortune 50 corporation with six to 12 lawyers on a file, we need people going out relatively early in their career working with clients, writing and arguing briefs, taking depositions and going to trial. We look for attorneys who are highly motivated self-starters that want to try cases. They will like this practice, because we get more of the kinds of cases that are going to go to trial. They’ll get more trial experience here. It’s a point of distinction.”

Tom Dickson, Patterson Thuente’s managing partner, is a seasoned litigator and practitioner whose experience includes corporate acquisitions and litigation strategies; business valuation; licensing and agreements; portfolio management; and joint development. He echoes Ali’s view of the firm’s value proposition for attorneys seeking mentoring and advancement. “There is a lot of opportunity for a junior attorney here — the opportunity to shine,” he says. “Instead of getting stuck doing doc reviews, I need a junior who can help with motions and meeting with clients. We have the capability right now to help train those people.”

Patterson Thuente serves clients from individual entrepreneurs to large corporations, whether they are based in Minneapolis or elsewhere in the world. The firm’s flexibility and alternative fee arrangements make it possible for small- to mid-sized companies to manage their budgets and expectations around the cost of litigation, while receiving world-class legal representation.

Although IP practice often means solving problems of an esoteric nature, it is still a people business. Patterson Thuente places importance on hiring attorneys who not only possess excellent credentials, but also demonstrate outstanding communication and interpersonal skills. This combination of attributes contributes to a highly collaborative internal culture, smooth working relationships with clients and greater efficacy in the courtroom.

“One of the difficulties in finding good IP counsel is that there are so many super bright people who become IP attorneys,” Dickson says. “Some are so concentrated on certain technologies, that they have a hard time relating broadly. We try to recruit for relatability. A lot of our attorneys have had other industry jobs before deciding to become IP attorneys, so they have an idea what it’s like to start or run a business. One of the things I like about Jeff is that he has that bottom-line sense when talking to people, how the law applies to them and whether it makes business sense to do certain things.”

“The tricky part of IP law is taking scientific principles and distilling them down to explain to lay jurors and judges,” Ali adds. “We can find the smartest people from STEM schools, but unless they have a good sense of how to apply what they’ve learned to a particular area of law and how it affects people working for real businesses, they may not be the best lawyers.”

Despite the pandemic, Patterson Thuente’s attorneys have prioritized maintaining connection with existing clients and cultivating relationships with new ones. This effort has included video meetings and trips overseas to visit clients face-to-face.

“Our clients in Europe were overjoyed to have people come visit them,” Dickson says. “We sent the team over twice in 2021, and they ended up spending an invaluable amount of time socializing, as well. It was a great opportunity to build connections that last for years. Our clients in Europe, for instance, will likely have litigation issues in the U.S. at some point. Jeff and his team will be involved. So, it’s important for clients to know their options in terms of who they have to work with in the States. They told us, ‘You’re the first to come see us again.’ We got great feedback, and it has super-charged the workflow with clients because we have a heightened understanding of their business, and they can see that we are making an investment in them.”

Patterson Thuente has all the elements of a top-tier IP firm – a dynamic team of talented people, robust resources and the ability to move nimbly to meet its clients’ needs.

Ali describes how he imagines the Patterson Thuente of the future, “I’ve known about Patterson ever since I started practicing. I was at another firm, working on a case opposite Patterson, and I knew of its capabilities. At the time, I thought Patterson did really good quality work. In the IP world, we knew the firm and its reputation, but I’m not sure how well it was known among the general public. I believe we are among the best firms in town, and our clients understand that we can deliver better value. We are not as expensive as the larger firms, but that is not the first consideration. Clients choose us because we deliver better value while giving excellent service. That is our strength.”

Patterson Thuente IP

4800 IDS Center
80 South 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 361-0309

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