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Attorneys of the Year: Devan V. Padmanabhan

Attorneys of the Year: Devan V. Padmanabhan

Winthrop & Weinstine

Devan Padmanabhan kept it simple and saved his client a lot of money. He also potentially saved other law firms a bundle by protecting their constitutional right to fair use of copyrighted material.

Padmanabhan, a shareholder with Winthrop & Weinstine in Minneapolis, represented the firm of Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner against an academic journal publisher that sued for copyright infringement. The publisher wanted to make the firm pay for referring in its patent applications to articles the publisher had printed.

The plaintiff, who had sued other law firms across the country, claimed that every instance of referring to one if its articles constituted copyright infringement and demanded the firms pay for licenses to use the material. Some firms did so; others fought.

The plaintiff sought to examine all of Schwegman’s patent applications that included its articles. Depending upon the number of lawyers in a firm, such a demand could cost the firm up to $30,000 a year, Padmanabhan said.

He proposed examining a representative sample of 18 patent applications, saving Schwegman a great deal of time and money. In seeking summary judgment, Padmanabhan eschewed other attorneys’ complex arguments. His expert witness, an economist, testified that Schwegman’s use of the articles constituted fair use under the Copyright Act. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Keyes agreed, and U.S. District Judge Richard H. Kyle dismissed the plaintiff’s claim with prejudice.

Others have recognized his work in the case, thanking him at conferences. “There were people from all around the country who emailed me and said what a nice job we did,” he added.

Padmanabhan studied electrical engineering in college before going to law school. Several people recommended he become a patent attorney. It’s more interesting than some may believe.

“I find this area to be very exciting,” he said. “In the litigation context, whenever we start fighting about something, it means that it has value to the company.”

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