A More Perfect Union

IP litigator Adam Seitz hangs a shingle in Kansas

Published in 2013 Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers — November 2013

After 10 years of patent litigation at the 400-attorney firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, intellectual property litigator Adam Seitz was ready to strike out on his own. To do so, however, he had to pay a pound of flesh. More than a pound, actually.

“I lost a lot of weight that first month,” says Seitz of the February 2012 launch of Erise IP in Overland Park, Kan.

Seitz and co-founder Eric Buresh, who also left Shook Hardy, didn’t get much sleep while they got their boutique firm off the ground. “There was a very big learning curve on everything associated with running a business,” says Seitz, “from the simple side of, ‘OK, you have to do all this paperwork to register your business,’ [to] the much more complex side of setting up all your computers and your accounting systems, and all the insurance and everything else that you have to have to be open and make sure your employees are taken care of.”

But would clients trust a boutique to get the same results as a big firm? “It was a humongous challenge to convince people to believe in our vision,” says Seitz. Their trial strategy: “Instead of overturning every rock, instead of burning every field and trying to go through every possible theory, we’re going to identify our best ones, and we’re going to focus on getting out of the case as quick as possible,” he says.

Seitz also wanted the firm to embody the legal philosophy of some fairly famous lawyers. “If you look back in time [to] the founding of our country, many of those folks were attorneys,” he says. “Lawyers were viewed at that time as very trusted advisers, and it was a respectable profession. If someone offered advice, they offered advice on a business level, on a legal level, on a personal level as a friend and trusted adviser. … And the attorneys treated each other with the utmost respect, they treated the court with respect.

“Our idea was not only to try to offer better legal services, but try to get back to being trusted advisers—to treating other people how you’d want to be treated.”

Erise IP now employs 11 attorneys and four patent agents. The majority of Seitz’s practice involves defending clients in patent troll litigation. Patent trolls are non-practicing entities that buy and license patents with an eye on making money from filing infringement claims. “Their focus is on suing where there is a big royalty base that has built up a lot of sales,” says Seitz, ”so where you see litigation going depends on where those dollars are.” 

Today, many of those dollars are in video games, GPS devices and cell phone applications. Erise counts game developers Ubisoft and Sony Computer Entertainment of America as clients, as well as GPS developer Garmin International Inc. Seitz is currently lead counsel for Garmin in an ongoing investigation before the International Trade Commission, in which complainants allege Garmin has infringed on one of their patents in a majority of its products. It’s familiar territory. In 2012, Seitz and the company won another patent infringement matter for Garmin before the ITC in a decision that was upheld on appeal.

Running the firm has helped Seitz put himself in his clients’ shoes. “The last year and a half, I’ve learned and had a greater appreciation for just how a business runs,” he says. “It’s something that you miss when you’re insulated [from] the day-to-day aspects of running a business at a big firm. That’s been a very eye-opening and a very beneficial lesson to have learned.”

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