Chris Abernethy's practice focuses on intellectual property litigation, transactions and counseling. With an emphasis on patent litigation, Chris has represented clients at trial and on appeal in numerous federal courts, in the U.S. International Trade Commission, and in contested proceedings before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Chris's practice also includes patent portfolio management, licensing and transactions. Chris is an IP strategist who combines his deep understanding of technology and intellectual property to support his clients’ business goals and maximize the value of their portfolios.
With a background in computer engineering, Chris is particularly known for his sophisticated understanding of complex technologies. His legal practice has spanned a broad array of technological fields, including, among others, computer microprocessor architectures, digital video encoding (AVC, HEVC, VP9, AV1), digital televisions and displays (LCD, OLED), wireless communications (LTE, UMTS, WiFi, Bluetooth), battery charger technology, catastrophic risk analysis software, self-balancing electric vehicles (hoverboards), light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments.
In addition to his practice, Chris regularly writes and speaks on intellectual property issues. Among other things, Chris has taught the semester-long patent law course at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, and he has guest lectured on IP issues at Stanford Law School, the UC Berkeley School of Law, the UCLA School of Law and the University of California Irvine School of Law.
Chris is an active member of Irell & Manella LLP's Hiring Committee.
- VLSI Technology LLC v. Intel Corporation (W.D. Tex.). Represented VLSI in multiple patent lawsuits against Intel. A first trial in March 2021 resulted in a $2.3 billion judgment for VLSI for Intel's infringement of two patents on microprocessor architecture technologies used to reduce power consumption and improve performance. Another trial in November 2022 then resulted in an additional $948 million jury verdict for VLSI, plus running royalties, for Intel's infringement of a patent on technology used to provide improved performance and scalability in server microprocessors.
- Idenix Pharmaceuticals v. Gilead Sciences (D. Del.). Retained by Gilead to prepare post-judgment briefing after its competitor, Idenix, was awarded a $2.5 billion jury verdict for infringement of a patent on a treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV). Following the post-trial briefing, the court found Idenix's patent invalid for lack of enablement, overturning the jury verdict and securing a complete win for Gilead, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed on appeal.
- Led the Irell team that represented Technicolor in a complex, four-party deal resulting in the July 2018 sale of Technicolor's patent licensing business to InterDigital for a $475 million valuation. The deal transferred most of Technicolor's patent portfolio to InterDigital, along with licensing staff and facilities, as well as Technicolor's interest in a licensing joint venture with Sony and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).
- Represented Technicolor in a worldwide campaign to monetize its patent portfolio relating to wireless, display and video encoding technologies, resulting in multiple licenses and settlements. Among other things, Chris successfully negotiated a global settlement and license agreement with Samsung in December 2017, concluding multiple litigations in which Technicolor had asserted 10 patents against Samsung in France and Germany.
- Document Security Systems, Inc. v. OSRAM GmbH et al. (C.D. Cal.). Defended OSRAM, a leader in lighting technology, against a lawsuit by Document Security Systems (DSS) asserting four patents against dozens of OSRAM’s light-emitting diode (LED) products. Chris's confidential strategy brought the litigation to a swift settlement almost immediately following DSS serving its opening infringement contentions. Five related cases asserting the same patents against OSRAM's competitors all remained pending more than a year later.
- WiAV Solutions v. Skyworks Solutions (S.D.N.Y.). Defended Skyworks in a breach of contract lawsuit concerning a deal in which Skyworks had sold a portfolio of patents to WiAV. WiAV alleged that Skyworks had breached its representations and warranties by failing to disclose an alleged encumbrance on the sold patents. Chris's confidential strategy brought the litigation to a swift and favorable settlement early in discovery immediately following a case management conference concerning the potential applicability of the SDNY Patent Local Rules.
- Linex Technologies, Inc. v. Juniper Networks, Inc. (S.D. Fla.). Defended Juniper in a lawsuit in which Linex alleged infringement of two patents on wireless “mesh network” technology. Chris found key prior art, then promptly moved to stay the case pending ex parte reexamination proceedings, which ultimately invalidated all asserted claims of both patents. Given the stay, the case was resolved before Juniper ever even had to answer the complaint.
- Chic v. Razor (C.D. Cal.). Defended Razor in a patent lawsuit brought by Chic alleging infringement by Razor's self-balancing electric scooters, known as hoverboards. Chris filed a detailed counterclaim alleging patent unenforceability due to inequitable conduct, then successfully defeated Chic's motion to dismiss the counterclaim. Chic promptly agreed to dismiss the case.
- Aon Corp. v. Guy Carpenter & Co. (S.D.N.Y.). Defended Aon, one of the largest insurance companies, against infringement allegations by its competitor, Guy Carpenter, concerning a patent on catastrophic risk analysis software. Chris deposed Guy Carpenter's in-house counsel in discovery, then filed an amended pleading to add detailed inequitable conduct allegations focused on the in-house counsel's deposition testimony and conflicting statements made to the patent office. The case promptly settled.
- Unwired Planet v. BlackBerry (ITC and D. Del.). Represented BlackBerry in patent litigation regarding mobile web browsing technology. Unwired Planet first brought suit in the ITC, but then ultimately withdrew its complaint on the eve of trial after receiving a claim construction under which Unwired Planet had admitted there was no infringement. Then in a subsequent case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the court entered the identical claim construction as the ITC, and Unwired Planet stipulated to non-infringement. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit then affirmed the claim construction on appeal, securing a complete win for BlackBerry.
- Idenix Pharmaceuticals v. Gilead Sciences (UK High Court of Justice). Assisted Gilead in defending against a challenge to the priority date of Gilead's patents on hepatitis C (HCV) medications. Competitor Idenix challenged the priority date of Gilead's patents in the UK on the ground that the patent family allegedly had a defective chain of title stemming from the family's U.S. parent application. Following a bench trial in the UK High Court of Justice, the court ruled in Gilead's favor and found that Gilead's patent family was entitled to the claimed priority date.
- Charge Lion v. Skyworks Solutions (E.D. Tex.). Represented Skyworks in a lawsuit brought by Charge Lion alleging infringement of a patent relating to battery charger technology. Charge Lion brought the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and Chris filed an early motion to transfer venue to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The case then promptly settled before the court ruled on the transfer motion.
Honors & Awards
- Named to the Southern California Rising Stars list (2017-2021)
- “Concurrent Proceedings & Preliminary Relief During a Patent Scrum: Hidden Dangers and Opportunities,” American Intellectual Property Law Association (January 18, 2017)
- “The Myriad Reasons to Hit ‘Reset’ on Patent-Eligibility Jurisprudence,” 47 Loyola L.A. L. Rev. 117 (May 22, 2014)
- “Senate Gridlock Causes En Banc Uncertainty,” The Recorder (July 15, 2013)
- “A Bit of a Muddle on Abstract-Idea Patents,” National Law Journal, contributor (Sept. 9, 2013)
- Los Angeles Intellectual Property Law Association (LAIPLA) Patent/IP Panel, University of California, Irvine School of Law (February 9, 2019)
- “Client Relations in Litigation,” University of California, Berkeley School of Law (March 23, 2017)
- “IP Litigation in the Trenches: Experiences from Two Patent Litigation Associates,” University of California, Berkeley School of Law (August 23, 2015)
- “Oh Diehr, Was Myriad Just a Flook? The State of Patent-Eligible Subject Matter,” Stanford Law School (October 21, 2014)
- Guest lectured for the course "Law 525: Patent Intensive" at the UCLA School of Law (September 2014)
- “Divided / Joint Infringement after Limelight Networks v. Akamai Techs.,” Irell MCLE Presentation (June 25, 2014)
- “Patent-Eligible Subject Matter: Something More than Just a Phenomenon,” Orange County Bar Association (April 21, 2014)
- “Overview of a Patent Case,” Irell Patent Nuts & Bolts Program (January 11, 2013)
Stanford Law School (J.D., 2010); Stanford Law Review
University of California, Irvine (B.S., Computer Engineering, 2007), cum laude
- U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
- Hon. Timothy B. Dyk, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit