January 17, 2007

Venable Expands California Office with Addition of Five-Attorney Intellectual Property Group led by JoAnna Esty

8 min

LOS ANGELES, CA/WASHINGTON, DC (January 16, 2007) – Further expanding its national intellectual property practice as well as its California office, Venable LLP has recruited a prominent group of Los Angeles IP attorneys.  The group, consisting of two partners, one of counsel, and two associates serves the computer and pharmaceutical industries.

JoAnna M. Esty, who recently finished a year-long stint as chair of the California State Bar IP Section Executive Committee, along with former research scientist Dr. Stefan J. Kirchanski, join the firm as partners; also added are IP Of Counsel J. Alison Grabell and associates Jenna F. Leavitt and Jennifer V. Whiting.  All five lawyers join from the Los Angeles firm of Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstrief LLP.

Ms. Esty, Dr. Kirchanski, and their colleagues arrive six months after Venable opened its Los Angeles office with 20 attorneys integrated from two established L.A. firms, Whitwell Jacoby Emhoff and Gorry Meyer & Rudd.  Venable now has more than 520 attorneys nationally, with principal offices in Washington, Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, and Virginia.

The incoming attorneys provide a full range of intellectual property representation, including litigation, licensing, and other IP transactions, as well as patent and trademark prosecution.   Most also boast science and technology backgrounds, complemented by extensive experience in industry and business.  Their clients include companies in life sciences, health care, information technology, telecommunications, electronics, medical products, and environmental services.

“This is a talented group of IP lawyers, infused with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, said Venable Managing Partner Karl A. Racine.  “We’re pleased to welcome them as we continue to broaden our California practice.”  He noted that Venable’s California search committee became first acquainted with the Liner firm last year but learned only recently through a recruiter that Ms. Esty, Dr. Kirchanski, and the other attorneys were looking to join a national firm.

“When we learned JoAnna Esty and Stefan Kirchanski might be available, we decided to act quickly,” Mr. Racine said.  “It’s gratifying that these two experienced IP practitioners, with strong science and business backgrounds, saw the benefits of Venable’s national platform as a means of expanding their client service.”

Ms. Esty regularly litigates complex civil IP matters in federal and state courts on behalf of public and privately-held companies.  She also represents clients in administrative proceedings before state, federal, and regulatory agencies.  In addition, she handles arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution procedures.

Among the diverse matters Ms. Esty has handled are the litigation of patent infringement disputes in various technology areas; the acquisition of a large computer company from its parent; licensing of computer software and hardware systems; drafting of joint research and development agreements for pharmaceutical companies; and counseling businesses on e-commerce issues.

After many years of private legal practice, Ms. Esty joined the management team of Disney’s Imagineering, Research and Development Division.  While she was there, this group developed leading edge technologies, focusing on virtual reality and computer graphics systems and computer innovations, robotics and electronics, materials and environmental sciences, and even ride systems for Disney’s theme parks. Ms. Esty, who, in addition to her engineering degree has an MBA and has completed significant graduate work in computer science, began her career as an engineer working on chemical manufacturing, fuel technologies, pollution control, environmental protection, and hazardous waste remediation projects.

Dr. Kirchanski, who holds a doctorate in botany, focuses his practice on patent and trademark prosecution, intellectual property opinion letters, intellectual property due diligence, licensing and development agreements, and intellectual property litigation support.

Prior to entering the law, Dr. Kirchanski served as a research and development manager for Becton Dickinson Immunocytometry Systems.  He was also a research scientist for Ortho Diagnostic Systems, as well as a research fellow at Harvard University and an assistant professor at University of Texas at Austin.

Ms. Esty is currently serving as the co-editor of New Matter, the periodical published by the IP Section of the State Bar of California.  She is also co-chair and a moderator for the IP Section’s upcoming program to spotlight judges and others from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, scheduled for February 20, 2007 in Marina Del Rey, California.

We enjoyed terrific success with our prior firm and, on a personal level, are sorry to leave,” Ms. Esty said.  “We recently had been looking for a firm that could support and grow our work nationally, and provide additional access to related practice groups, including business transactions, regulatory, the life sciences, and other areas.”

“After considering a number of options, Venable represented a great growth opportunity for our group,” she added.  “The firm has a well-rounded, mature IP practice with national litigation and transactional capabilities, and has a number of attorneys with advanced science backgrounds that enhance a successful IP practice.  Plus, the firm has a terrific client roster that covers all the industries where we have particular experience.  Knowing that it had made a commitment to build a West Coast practice sealed our decision that Venable was the right fit.”

Timothy J. Gorry, partner in charge of Venable’s Los Angeles office, noted that the addition of five IP lawyers would complement well the firm’s existing business base on the West Coast. 

“Bringing in a strong patent and trademark team really enhances our existing litigation work, especially given our representation of entertainment, media, and technology clients,” he said.  “But JoAnna and Stefan also work on a great variety of general patent and trademark matters that will boost our ability to provide pro-active IP counsel, a critical component of a West Coast practice.  And their respective backgrounds in applied science and research and development bring tremendous value-added skills in pursuing new IP work from a variety of business sectors.”

Ms. Esty received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law (1982) and her MBA from Pepperdine University (1994).  She received her Bachelor's in Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.  Ms. Esty is currently doing graduate work in computer science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Dr. Kirchanski received his J.D. from Loyola of Los Angeles (1992), and his Ph.D. in botany (1974) and B.A. (1969) from the University of California, Berkeley.

The following attorneys are also joining Venable with Ms. Esty and Dr. Kirchanski:

J. Alison Grabell (Of Counsel)

J. Alison Grabell’s practice includes U.S. and foreign trademark prosecution, copyright prosecution, IP litigation and inter partes practice before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, enforcement of trademark and domain name rights, and client counseling. 

Ms. Grabell is a member of the Executive Committee of the California State Bar’s Intellectual Property Law Section and liaison to its Trademark Standing Committee.  She is an Articles Editor of New Matter, the official publication of the California State Bar’s IP Section. She has served as co-chair of the Trademark Standing Committee and as co-chair of the annual “Trademark Office Comes to California” and “Copyright Office Comes to California” conferences.

She is a member of the Blue Car Committee of the Beverly Hills Bar Association, which partners with Belmont High School in Los Angeles to provide volunteers to teach inner city students about the legal process and profession.  Ms. Grabell was a member of the first Beverly Hills Bar Association delegation to visit Havana, Cuba in December 2004 as part of a ground-breaking professional exchange authorized by the U.S. Department of State.  

Before practicing law, Ms. Grabell served in the U.S. Foreign Service, as cultural attaché in Paris and Vienna, press attaché in Geneva and Belgrade, and Executive Assistant to the Director of the Voice of America in Washington, D.C.  In 1984 she was a government affairs/protocol officer for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee.

Ms. Grabell received her J.D. from Southwestern University School of Law, her Master's in International Public Policy from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and her B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.

Jenna F. Leavitt (Associate)

Jenna Leavitt concentrates on IP litigation, technology and Internet related matters, and entertainment law.  Prior to law school, Ms. Leavitt worked at Motorola in the Space and Systems Technology Group, where she designed computer hardware and software solutions, managed and administered email systems, developed programs for proprietary software, and designed departmental web sites.  She has worked in the technology industry for many years, gaining extensive experience in computer programming, software and hardware design, implementation and support, and a variety of Internet-related matters.  A regional chair for the Intellectual Technology Law Association, Ms. Leavitt has written and presented extensively on technology law issues.

Ms. Leavitt received her J.D. (2000) and her B.A. (1995) from the University of Arizona.

Jennifer V. Whiting (Associate)

Jennifer V. Whiting has experience negotiating computer software and hardware license agreements, product license agreements, distribution agreements, development and manufacturing agreements, and numerous related IP agreements, including those governing Internet policies.  She has also handled copyright and trademark prosecution and related IP transactional work, as well as IP related litigation. She has worked on domain name dispute resolution, trademark opposition proceedings, general IP counseling, and the discovery, motion, and pretrial stages of IP litigation.  She also has experience in corporate law, entertainment licensing, and feature film production.

Ms. Whitting received her J.D. from the University of Houston School of Law (1998) and her B.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles (1995).

One of the American Lawyer’s top 100 law firms, Venable LLP has attorneys practicing in all areas of corporate and business law, complex litigation, intellectual property and government affairs. Venable serves corporate, institutional, governmental, nonprofit and individual clients throughout the U.S. and around the world from its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and offices in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia.