It’s all true about Google’s storied workplace culture, reports Demarron Berkley, patent litigation counsel in the tech giant’s San Francisco headquarters. “Earlier today, I was editing a brief while getting a massage in the massage chair that we have on our floor,” said Berkley.
The week before, he confided, he’d actually gotten some shuteye during office hours in a “nap pod.” Plus, there is the perennial free food and drink in Google’s micro-kitchens—little break areas where employees grab sustenance to facilitate all the unbridled innovation.
The business model is, of course, different from most corporate structures. “At Google, it doesn’t really matter how many hours you work. It’s more about how well you do the work,” said Berkley, 41, who manages patent litigation matters involving various Google technologies, from its video-sharing website, YouTube, which Google bought in 2006, to its advertising tools.
After joining Sidley’s Dallas office back in 2011, Berkley honed his litigation skills, focusing mainly on patents but also handling commercial and pro bono matters. “Working on significant patent cases initially drew me to Sidley, but Sidley’s pro bono efforts, specifically its Veterans Benefits Project, left me with many fond memories and experiences that I will take with me throughout my career,” he reminisced. A few months ago, Mike Hatcher, a Dallas IP partner who supervised Berkley’s work on a veterans’ appeal, wrote Berkley passing along thanks and congratulations from a client who was recently awarded a sizable payment for wrongfully denied veterans benefits—a result of Berkley’s work on the project.
A Google recruiter contacted Berkley about a patent litigation position in its Mountain View headquarters. Then, true to Sidley’s collegial culture, when Berkley accepted the position, he spoke for hours on the phone with the wife of one of Sidley’s partners, Bryan Anderson, in the firm’s Palo Alto office, learning about the area as he made plans to move from Dallas to California with his wife, Juakita, a caterer and pastry chef.
The move proved to be a rewarding one for Berkley, who says that every case he handles has its interesting aspects. When Google is sued, which he says is by far much more common than when his company initiates litigation, the matter is assigned to an internal litigator who is responsible for managing it through to its conclusion. “We are very involved with strategy and really are very hands-on with managing cases,” he says, adding, “Being in-house, I love the fact that I can see more broadly how the law has developed, where the law is heading, and how the changes will impact my client, Google.”
He cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Alice v. CLS Bank ruling in June 2014, which held that abstract ideas implemented using a computer aren’t eligible for a patent. “Alice has had a rippling effect throughout the industry and throughout litigation, specifically,” Berkley explained. “In litigation, you have a lot of patent trolls who assert bad patents. The changes in the law have resulted in a real uptick in those bad patents being invalidated over the last few years.”
He added that the America Invents Act (AIA), patent reform legislation enacted in 2011, has helped entrepreneurs and businesses protect their innovations. One important feature of the AIA is that instead of an average wait time of almost three years, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) can now offer startups and growing companies an opportunity to have their patents reviewed in one-third the time. Another benefit, said Berkley is, “the ability to actually challenge a patent in front of the PTO, before the Patent and Trademark Appeals Board, without having to fight a long and arduous battle in court. That has also helped with the patent troll issue.”
After sharing his views on the landscape of patent litigation and his office’s many perks, it became time to inquire about Google’s secret search algorithms, the ones that can drive coveted customers and clients to a company’s website.
“I don’t work on that at all,” he demurred. “But if I knew the secret sauce, I’d tell you” (wink, wink).
Published November 2015 - UPDATE, Senior Litigation Counsel, Google
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