Firms Buying Their Way Into the High Court Club
Once a tiny specialty, Supreme Court work is growing
It is billed as the most important patent case of the decade, and the companies on each side, eBay Inc. and MercExchange, a one-time online auction site, have fought tooth and nail. Both hired top counsel to fight the case, but when they needed to move to the Supreme Court, eBay wasn't taking any chances.
The question, how easy it should be for a patent holder to win an injunction against an infringer, was too important. Too important, apparently, to leave only to Jeffrey Randall, a veteran litigator now with megafirm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
Instead the online auction giant reached for a familiar high court advocate, Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin, whose argument before the Supreme Court on Wednesday on behalf of eBay will be his 49th.
At MercExchange, Phillips' hire had a ripple effect. The company shoved aside Hunton & Williams for its Court argument, hiring Seth Waxman, the former Clinton administration solicitor general.
MercExchange's lawyers got it. "When you get to the Supreme Court it's a very small club, and you want people who are polished practitioners," says Scott Robertson, Hunton's lead partner on the case.