The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Ali R. Alemozafar, Partner—Patents & Innovations
Dr. Ali R. Alemozafar is a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, where he focuses on strategic intellectual property counseling in a wide range of technical fields, including diagnostics, tools, genomics, digital health, bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, materials, and various engineering fields. His expertise includes patent strategy, patent prosecution, and patent diligence—including freedom-to-operate analyses—for financings, mergers and acquisitions, and public offerings. Ali has prepared and prosecuted patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions, including Europe, China, and Japan. He provides legal counseling to companies at various stages of growth, from pre-financing startups to public companies.
Prior to joining the firm, Ali worked on data warehousing, business intelligence, and enterprise data integration. He frequently lectures at the UC Berkeley School of Law and UC Hastings College of Law on various intellectual property topics, including patent strategy and IP due diligence.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
I work with companies that are disrupting some area of science or technology. I work with such companies to identify and build an IP strategy around their ideas, which would include preparing and filing patent applications with aggressive claims. I subsequently work with the patent offices in the United States and around the world to move such applications to allowance.
I also advise companies on their freedom to operate, when the time is right. This involves structuring a search strategy to broadly identify third-party patents and patent applications, which would then be reviewed in light of what a company is planning on doing commercially to help assess and manage risk.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent clients in a wide range of technical fields. In the life sciences, for example, I represent companies such as 10x Genomics, Guardant Health, Personalis, and GenapSys. I also advise clients in other spaces, such as materials, computing, and engineering disciplines. One in particular is 1Qbit, a company in the quantum computing space. Another is Scoot, a San-Francisco-based company in the mobility space that was acquired by Bird.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I work with companies from very early stage to late stage, including companies that have gone public. I work with companies that are planning to undergo venture financing, an M&A, or an IPO.
How did you choose this practice area?
I have always enjoyed being exposed to new ideas. I went into my Ph.D. program at Stanford University with the intent of solving a new problem. Having done that, and after a postdoctoral research fellowship at Harvard University, I wanted to continue my exposure to new ideas. My practice area brings me in contact with highly innovative ideas all the time and enables me to help my clients problem-solve to protect such ideas.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
On a typical day, I might be meeting with existing or potential clients and my team of associates and patent agents. A common task on a given day may involve me advising companies on their IP strategies and working with my team to move such IP strategies forward.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I recommend that an individual wishing to enter my practice area focus on active listening. I get exposed to new ideas over a very short timeframe, so I need to make sure I am listening very carefully to pick up even the smallest detail.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
There are many moving pieces in my practice area, which makes prioritization and time management very important. Careful attention to prioritization and time management may enable a person to make sure more urgent tasks are addressed over other tasks and that the time to address such tasks is spent efficiently.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Exposure to new and highly innovative ideas.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
We have the largest patent group for a general practice firm and the largest life science practice area in the world. This allows us to problem solve for clients across a wide range of technical fields quickly and efficiently.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
There are many potential career paths for lawyers in my practice area. These include following a traditional path to partnership, becoming in-house counsel in a company, or even starting a company.