Sullivan & Cromwell adds former USPTO head and federal circuit judge

Andrei Iancu and Kathleen O’Malley join from Irell & Manella to bolster US firm’s patent practice in Los Angeles and Washington DC

Former Federal Circuit judge Kathleen O'Malley joins Sullivan & Cromwell

Sullivan & Cromwell has hired former US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) director Andrei Iancu and former federal judge Kathleen O’Malley from IP-focused law firm Irell & Manella. 

Prominent litigator Iancu has joined Sullivan & Cromwell as a partner and will split his time between Los Angeles and Washington DC, while O’Malley, who served as a federal judge for more than 27 years until her retirement last year from the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, joins as of counsel in Washington DC.

At Sullivan & Cromwell the duo will advise clients on a range of IP and technology matters, from litigation, trials and high-stakes appeals to obtaining, licensing, enforcing and defending against IP rights globally.

Sullivan & Cromwell co-chairs, Robert Giuffra and Scott Miller, said the addition of two of “the most respected litigation and IP lawyers in the country, will enhance our ability to serve our clients’ increasing demand for exceptional trial and appellate lawyers in this critical and growing practice area.” 

They added that the newcomers would strengthen the firm’s litigation group, including its appellate, corporate crisis, alternative dispute resolution and white collar practices.

Iancu became USPTO director in 2018 and during his three years in the role oversaw improvements to patent and trademark processes and practices, including the implementation of automation to import prior art references from previously filed parent patent applications into later-filed child applications. 

In 2021 he returned to Irell & Manella as a partner, having earlier spent almost 20 years in the firm’s litigation department and served as managing partner between 2012 and 2018. He has represented plaintiffs and defendants in IP matters across the technical and scientific spectra, including cybersecurity, medical devices, genetic testing, therapeutics, the internet, telephony, TV broadcasting and video game systems.

Iancu said: “I am delighted to join Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the preeminent law firms in the world, with an extensive roster of technology, life sciences, financial, industrial and other clients.” 

He added that the firm had an impressive record of success in IP litigation and transactional matters.

Internationally recognised in the IP litigation and policy fields, O’Malley was appointed to the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in 1994 and over the next 16 years presided over more than 1,000 complex civil and criminal matters, including major white-collar, antitrust and securities actions, as well as patent, trademark and copyright cases.

In 2010, President Obama elevated her to the federal circuit, making her the first district court judge ever appointed to that court, which hears all patent appeals. She joined Irell & Manella as of counsel last year following her retirement as a judge. 

Commenting on her move, O’Malley said she was looking forward to “sharing my years of experience with such a talented group of lawyers and bringing my experience to bear in assisting the firm’s clients on some of their most challenging IP litigation matters.”

She added that she was excited about the opportunities Sullivan & Cromwell “will provide to expand my alternative dispute resolution, corporate crisis and white-collar practices.”

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