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May 15, 2009 4:51 PM

Fish & Richardson Layoffs Create More IP Angst

Posted by Rachel Breitman

IP, frequently considered a recession-proof practice, took another hit this week.

Fish & Richardson, a Boston-based IP firm, cut 35 lawyers and 85 support staff, slashing their head count by more than 7 percent,  Above the Law reported on Wednesday, The firm confirmed the layoffs to The  Am Law Daily on Friday.

As we reported in the April issue, patent infringement filings in federal district courts were down almost a quarter for the last four months of 2008, and remained down at the same level for the first few months of 2009.

Last week a study by research firm BTI Consulting Group found that a majority of 370 corporate counsel at Fortune 1000 companies plan to cut IP litigation spending by more than 7 percent. With patent cases increasingly taking longer, firms are becoming less willing to invest in expensive litigation. And many types of patent transactional work often falls as investment capital dries up. 

Consequently IP lawyers have been feeling the heat. Layoffs at Cooley Godward Kronish and Morrison & Foerster in January, and at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe in March included IP lawyers. San Francisco IP boutique Townsend and Townsend and Crew eliminated 16 attorney positions in April, while now-defunct New York IP boutique Morgan & Finnegan filed for bankruptcy in April.

These days, no matter what kind of law you practice, it's hard to know who is safe. 

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