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    March 12, 2008  
 
 

HALF A BILLION
BUCKS!


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What’s better than winning a $501 million verdict?  Getting it on a contingency basis, of course.  Dickstein Shapiro hit the jackpot on both counts with its $501 million award in Saffran v. Boston Scientific last month, one of the largest patent infringement verdicts in U.S. history.  No wonder lead trial attorney Gary Hoffman was so happy when we stopped by for the details. 

 

This guy must be persuasive:  The jury awarded the exact amount requested ($431,867,351), right down to the dollar.  Pre-judgment interest increased the final figure. Gary enlisted a local attorney, Eric Albritton of Longview, Texas, to be his co-lead at trial.

 

Dickstein filed the Saffran case—over a patented method for delivering drugs to body tissue—in the Eastern District of Texas, and Gary insists that the court’s speedy procedural rules were as much a draw as its plaintiff-friendly reputation.  (Either way, we’re pretty sure it wasn’t the allure of Marshall, Texas, population 24,000, where the Dickstein trial team stayed at a Hampton Inn.)  The courtroom had a sign on the wall advising that men must wear coats and ties, which made for an unusually well-dressed jury.  After a one-week trial, it deliberated two hours before coming back with the resounding victory. 

 

Gary started the firm’s IP department in DC back in 1986 with two associates; they’re now up to 80 lawyers.

 

Dickstein has developed an eye for contingency opportunities over the years.  Perhaps most notably—and profitably—the firm virtually invented the practice of representing large corporations opting out of class action anti-trust settlements (like its work for Proctor & Gamble and General Mills in vitamin price-fixing cases).  Gary says Dickstein budgets up to 10% of its attorney time for contingency matters, which receive a stiff review before being undertaken.  Saffran’s case was a partial contingency; the firm billed at a discounted rate in exchange for a slice of the pie.  (Gary stayed mum on the exact percentage.)

 

Gary is hoping the results are just as good when Saffran’s pending case against Johnson & Johnson goes to trial.

 

The case started as a sideline project for plaintiff Bruce Saffran, M.D. and Ph.D., who wrote and prosecuted a patent application himself while finishing a dissertation and (yawn) doing a medical residency at Harvard Medical School.  In 2001, Saffran complained to Boston Scientific that its drug‑eluting stent system (of course we know what that means) infringed his work, but Gary says the medical giant realized that he didn’t have counsel and “shut down the conversation.” A friend referred Saffran to Dickstein’s Paul Taskier, who staffed the trial along with Gary, James Brady, and three associates.  The good news for the team hasn’t ended yet:  Because they sued only for lost royalties (i.e., in the past), the judge has ordered Saffran to file an additional suit to recover for Boston Scientific’s ongoing infringement.  “We thought about whether to comply with that order for about three seconds,” Gary says.

 
 
 
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