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April 25, 2022

ABA honors William F. Lee with Mark T. Banner Award

The American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law honored William F. Lee with its 2022 Mark T. Banner Award during its in-person Annual Meeting at the Grand Hyatt Washington in Washington, D.C., on April 7.

The award recognizes exemplary individuals and groups who have contributed to intellectual property law and/or practice.

Lee, a partner at WilmerHale is considered a pioneer in the IP law profession and a leading trial and appellate lawyer and intellectual property litigator, is a senior fellow at the Harvard Corporation and the Eli Goldston lecturer at Harvard Law School.

For more than 40 years, Lee has represented a number of clients with a focus in technology. Over the last decade, he has tried more than 200 cases to verdict and argued more than 100 cases to the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit and other appellate courts, many have included high profile cases involving IP law.

Lee was the lead trial counsel for Apple Inc. in the “smart phone war” litigations, which were cases between Apple, Intel and Qualcomm. Federal court cases have involved genetically engineered products, cellular communications, remote data storage, pharmaceutical products, and medical devices. Another victory for Lee was his work as lead counsel for Harvard in the case challenging its admissions policies as discriminatory.

During his acceptance speech, Lee remembered the person for whom the award is named. “In his much too short career, Mark was an exemplary leader in our field. As the saying goes, ‘You are what you do.’ And Mark was what he did.” He added that Banner “taught the importance of our patent system and the critical need to ensure that our country maintain and encourage incentives for creativity and innovation.”

Lee spoke about his involvement in “enormous changes in our field in the last several decades” and provided thoughts on the future of IP law.

Patent law has evolved from “who owned what and who owed what to whom” to involving more complex issues of entities partnering with or backed by investment firms and litigation-financing firms. “These investment entities treat patent litigation as high-yield junk bonds, hoping that a case or two will bring an outsized award,” Lee said. “As a result, much of the patent litigation in our courts today is not about protecting a property right secured by undertaking resource-intensive research and development and disclosing an invention to the public but is instead about seeking a sizeable return on investment.”

Despite that trend, Lee said he is hopeful that IP litigation will get to a balance of promoting the pursuit of the useful sciences and supporting the nation’s best innovators.