Robert Greene Sterne is a founding director of Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox. At the age of 26, and just one year out of law school, he set out to create a different kind of law firm—one that recognized the contributions of all its members and put a strong emphasis on scientific and technical knowledge. Now, nearly four decades later, Sterne has helped to nurture and grow this revolutionary idea into one of the top five largest intellectual property specialty firms in the country. And in so doing, he has established his place as one of the leading patent lawyers in the United States. In fact, Rob has been recognized by the Financial Times as one of the "Top Ten Most Innovative Lawyers in North America 2015," by Law360 as one of the "Top 25 Icons of IP," and among the country’s "IP Trailblazers & Pioneers 2014" by the National Law Journal. In 2018 and 2017, The Legal 500 recognized Rob as a "Leading Lawyer" in the U.S. for reexamination and post-grant proceedings; a distinction awarded to only ten other attorneys in the entire country. He is highly respected by his peers and has received some of the most prestigious awards and rankings for professional excellence in intellectual property law.
Sterne has been involved in some of the most consequential patent cases that have paved the way for some of the most tech-savvy companies to cultivate and commercialize their innovations. And in turn, these companies, have established new markets and defined new industries. He had an important role as co-counsel in KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., one of the most significant U.S. Supreme Court patent cases in the past 50 years because it finally answered the fundamental question of when an invention is “obvious” and therefore not patentable. Sterne was successful patent reexamination counsel for i4i in Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Limited Partnership, the U.S. Supreme Court patent case that reaffirmed the presumption of validity of patents in district court suits. Rob was the lead attorney in In re Beauregard, a groundbreaking case in the early 90s brought by IBM at the Federal Circuit, which established that a computer program functionality on a disk was patentable subject matter. The case resulted in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issuing their software patent guidelines, which dramatically expanded the scope of patent protection for software and produced an explosion in software-related U.S. patents. During this time period, Sterne was a leading attorney in patent protection and enforcement of software-related, artificial intelligence, and expert system U.S. patents.
In 2011, U.S. Senate staff sought Rob’s counsel in the drafting of the American Invents Act (AIA)—the most significant change to the U.S. patent system since 1952 which converted the patent system from a “first to invent” to a “first to file” system and created a system for testing the validity of issued patents at the USPTO. Once the AIA was instituted in 2012, Rob and his colleagues at Sterne Kessler literally wrote the book – Patent Office Litigation — the first and most definitive treatise on these new Patent Trial & Appeal Board (PTAB) patent validity challenges published by Thomson Reuters. Based on this thought leadership, the American Bar Association in 2014 asked Sterne and others in the firm's PTAB teams to author the new chapter on PTAB in their treatise Patent Office Litigation. It is currently found
Sterne serves as an IP strategic advisor to
Sterne extensively speaks, writes, and provides CLE training on leading-edge areas of IP including the new PTAB contested proceedings, and has delivered hundreds of speeches about the every changing IP landscape and its implications domestically and internationally for IP law, innovation, and economics. Most recently in 2014 and 2015, he developed with other IP leaders a conference series entitled "New IP Financial Models: Innovation, Wall Street, and Patents," which included luminaries in the IP space who discussed trends for innovation, board responsibility and shareholder value that are inevitably impacted by changes in patent rights, and the financial climate in the U.S. and abroad. In the early 2000s, as co-chair of The Sedona Patent Litigation Conference, Rob played a central role in building the forum into the most advanced and highly regarded non-partisan thought leadership conference on U.S. patent litigation. He received the 2012 Sedona Conference "Lifetime Achievement Award for Contributions to Intellectual Property," and returned to Sedona by special request to lead the distinguished faculty of the conference as the 2015 co-chair. He created and chaired the highly regarded American Intellectual Property Law Association The Law of Computer-Related Technology Mid-Winter Institutes (1984, 1988, 1992, 1996). He co-chairs PLI's yearly USPTO Post-Grant Patent Trials conference, the first and leading conference devoted solely to the new PTAB proceedings and their interface to the courts.
A strong proponent of diversity and inclusion, Rob is a member of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia, serves on the firm’s diversity task force, and is actively involved in mentoring diverse attorneys, both in the firm and with outside organizations. Rob is also active in the community. He was elected to the Executive Board of the National Capital Area Council (NCAC), Boys Scouts of America (BSA) in 2003, and was awarded the "Silver Beaver" adult leadership award by the NCAC in 2010, the highest
Rob has dedicated his professional career to upholding Art. 1, sec. 8, cl. 8 of the Constitution: To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries; He specializes in representing the true innovators in society, and in protecting competitors and the public from removal of conventional technology from the public domain.
When asked by a well-known CIPO what his philosophy is for representing clients, Sterne replied, "I get things done."
Chambers & Partners USA, "Band 1 - Intellectual Property: Patent Prosecution (District of Columbia)" (2018-2004)
Leaders League 2017 "Innovation Technology & IP Rankings" Highly Recommended, Patent Litigation
The Legal 500, "Leading Lawyer in Intellectual Property - Patent Prosecution (including reexamination and post-grant proceedings)" (2018 - 2017)
World Intellectual Property Review, "WIPR Leaders" (2018-2016)
Law360's Top 25 Icons of IP 2015
Financial Times' "Top Ten Innovative Lawyers in North America" 2015
2014 National Law Journal "IP Trailblazer and Pioneer"
- IAM Patent 1000, "National: Recommended - Post-Grant Proceedings; Washington, D.C.: Recommended - Transactions, Patent Litigation (Silver Band)" (2018 - 2013)
Who's Who Legal: Patents 2015 - Patents
2013 - 2017 Managing IP's "IP Star"
2012 Attorney of the Year "Good Scout" Award Recipient
Lifetime Achievement Award for Contributions to Intellectual Property, The Sedona Conference 2012
The Best Lawyers in America 2006-2019
IAM 300 - A Guide to the World's Leading IP Strategists 2009-2018
Top Lawyers, Washingtonian Magazine 2009-2014
Washington DC Super Lawyers 2007-2018
IAM 250 - Leading Patent and Technology Licensing Lawyer, 2010
The Washington Post - Top Lawyers 2009-2012
Martindale AV Preeminent Peer Rating 5.0/5.0
Excellence Award in Advanced Legal Education, The Sedona Conference, 2004
- Microsoft Corp. v. i4i Ltd. Partnership, 131 S. Ct. 2238 (2011)
- KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., one of the most significant patent cases heard by the Supreme Court in 50 years. The case addressed the fundamental question of when an invention is “obvious” and therefore not patentable. (2007)
- Hear-Wear Technologies, LLC v. K/S HIMPP, No. 2014-1357 (Rule 36 affirmance for HIMPP January 8, 2015)
- Hear-Wear Technologies, LLC v. K/S HIMPP, No. 2014-1369 (Rule 36 affirmance for HIMPP January 9, 2015)
- K/S HIMPP v. Hear-Wear Technologies, LLC, No. 2013-1549 (2014)
- Energy Transportation Group, Inc. v. William Demant Holding A/S, et al., 697 F. 3d 1342 (2012)
- In re Jung, 637 F.3d 1356 (2011)
- In re Beauregard, 53 F.3d 1583, 35 USPQ2d 1383 (1995)
- American Intellectual Property Law Association
- ITC Trial Lawyers Association