Irell & Manella LLP
Specialty: Intellectual property
Law School: Harvard, 1976
Morgan Chu is one of the nation's foremost litigators in intellectual property cases, but he hardly started off on the career track. In fact, Chu dropped out of high school at 15 to hitchhike around the country. He almost didn't go to college.
"I was bored with high school," he said. "I left home, stuck my thumb out on the road and hitchhiked. I wasn't lost; I was just having a good time. I always knew I would get back on track."
Which happened in the late 1960s, when UCLA let him in as an undergrad, despite his lack of a high school diploma. "It never would have happened the same way these days," he said. "I got really lucky."
Chu not only received his bachelor's degree at UCLA, but a master's degree and a Ph.D. He went on to get another master's degree at Yale in 1974 and eventually a law degree from Harvard.
He started his legal career by clerking for a judge at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then joined Irell & Manella in 1977.
Chu never made a conscious decision to go into intellectual property, but one of his first cases was a patent case for Mattel Inc. The specialty stuck and Chu has become very good at it.
In a 1994 case against Microsoft, he won a $120 million verdict for Stac Electronics in a patent infringement case involving data-compression products. In 1996, he won a patent infringement action against Samsung for Texas Instruments Inc. The $1 billion settlement and new patent licensing agreement set major legal precedents.
"I get to make the most complex issues interesting and understandable," Chu said. "The one thing you don't want to do is talk down to people. I also get to have the world's finest engineers and scientists explain it to me so I can explain it to the jury."
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