Law Firms

Original 'patent troll' law firm has closed its doors

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On the heels of the sudden death last August of Raymond Niro Sr., the passionate litigator for whom the term “patent troll” was coined, the Chicago-based Niro Law firm broke apart earlier this month, Crain’s Chicago Business reported.

Four partners from the then-13-lawyer firm are starting a new firm called Vitale Vickrey Niro & Gasey and took with them three associates who will join as partners. The Niro in the name is Dean Niro, son of the legendary founding partner.

The new firm will expand its work well beyond the intellectual property to commercial litigation, though it is planning to continue handling patent and trademark cases.

“The Niro firm has been synonymous with patent litigation, and a group of us wanted a new firm with a broader focus,” says Paul Vickrey, who became the Niro Firm’s managing partner after Niro’s death.

The firm had previously been called Niro, Haller & Niro and became Niro Law in 2016, the Am Law Daily reported.

Niro had been tagged in 2001 as a “patent troll” by an assistant general counsel at Intel Corp., which was sued by Niro’s client TechSearch. The Intel lawyer had first used the term “extortionist, which prompted a libel suit and a decision to switch to the term “patent “roll,” Corporate Counsel reported.

Niro represented a lot of so-called NPEs, for nonpracticing entitites—businesses that own patents but don’t make anything with them. He made more than $1 billion for his clients in settlements and verdicts over the years.

But that success, and the entry of others into the practice area caused a backlash resulting in legislation, such as the America Invents Act, and court decisions putting up roadblocks to such patent enforcement. Niro argued that there were some bad actors who were “playing a numbers game” and filing patent lawsuits to force settlements, but that his business model was different—it was clear, he said in a Q&A with the IP Watchdog blog in 2012, that he was fighting for the interests of his clients.

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