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Lunch at The Four Seasons with: Edgar Haug

Published by The New York Sun on 2005-10-31

Edgar Haug performs, and not only practices, intellectual-property law in an increasingly global arena.

Like all litigators, Mr. Haug, one of America's prominent intellectual-property lawyers, knows he's always on stage during a trial, especially with juries. But he also knows that it's relatively uncommon for jurors to approach participating attorneys after a trial is over.

"So I was somewhat intrigued when, after a particularly contentious lawsuit that I won in Brooklyn, a juror came up to me," Mr. Haug, one of the founding partners of Frommer Lawrence & Haug, said. "I thought she was going to reveal how the jury arrived at its decision. Instead, the juror said, 'You know, for the last one-and-a-half months we've been trying to figure out where you were from - are you from California?'"

Mr. Haug is actually from Hermannsberg, Germany. But he grew up as the only son of his immigrant parents Heinz Stanzick, a dentist, and Marie Kren, in the Ridgewood section of Brooklyn. (He uses the family name of his stepfather, Fred Haug.)

Ridgewood is a middle-class neighborhood, and not especially known to have spawned a particular line of fashion. But as a litigator, Mr. Haug understands that attire and accouterments in a court room do matter, regardless of how complex the case. While at St. John's Law School in Queens, he was struck by how sharply dressed some of the city's most successful lawyers were.

And as he found out not long ago, a lawyer's deportment can be minutely studied by jurors.

"One juror told me, after the trial, 'Where do you get your ties? The other side's lawyers always seemed to wear cheap ties and had holes in their shoes,'" Mr. Haug said.

Such light moments may be pleasing to a high-profile lawyer such as Mr. Haug, but they are few and far between. Intellectual property has emerged as among the most contentious and worrisome issues for business globally - but especially in America, where industries ranging from technology to telecommunications to publishing to entertainment to pharmaceuticals, are finding themselves victimized by theft of patents and research.

"How we deal with the issue is going to determine whether America will continue its dominance in technology, biosciences, communications and other fields," Mr. Haug said. "For businesses, it isn't just a question of theft or piracy by foreign companies, often in countries where intellectual-property laws don't exist or are loosely interpreted. What happens when your own employees transfer your technology to rivals?"

Such abuse of intellectual property can prove enormously expensive. Mr. Haug cited Pfizer's best-selling Lipitor, which may soon be produced in generic form by Ranbaxy, an Indian pharmaceutical company. A decision from a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, is being anxiously by the industry.

"Many companies survive on their patents," Mr. Haug said. "If their patents are lost or replicated without compensation, their future is in great peril. The losses can be staggering."

The United States Trade Representative said earlier this year in a report titled "Special 301" that the annual losses to American businesses as a result of such intellectual property piracy are more than $250 billion. The pharmaceutical industry alone conservatively loses in excess of $20 billion per year in drugs going generic, according to the USTR.

"And this figure, of course, does not include the loss of IP rights through infringement or litigation to vitiate IP rights," Mr. Haug said.

He pointed to the trade representative's concern over China's rampant counterfeit and piracy in its domestic market, and the fact that China has become a leading exporter of counterfeit and pirated goods to the world.

The trade representative's report also focused on 52 of America's trading partners, including Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela. In addition to dispute resolution, the Bush Administration has said it may well consider sanctions and fines against violators, as it has demonstrated in the case of Ukraine.

The widening scope of intellectual-property issues means that litigators like Mr. Haug frequently fly from court room to mediation chambers all around the world. Last week, for example, Mr. Haug was in Japan to open a new office. He's often at his San Diego office. He appears before the British High Court in London, the German Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe, the Tokyo High Court, and the World Court in The Hague.

"I'm really not a passenger on these flights around the world," Mr. Haug said. "I'm hired to be a jet-fighter pilot. I try to hit targets. It's not only about legal fees - it's about winning. Globalization has made my job more difficult, more challenging. But the importance of a court decision on intellectual-property cases can affect everyone's lives - this isn't generally appreciated. Consider the jobs that can be lost, for example."

A conversation with Mr. Haug can morph into a lively tutorial on the law. His ability to explain complex jargon and arcane cases to a jury - and to the press - is well known in the legal business. He has handled litigation involving patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets for many of the world's leading companies, including Tokyo Electron, the Sony Corporation, Schier Pharmaceuticals, Merck kgA Inc., and Par Pharmaceuticals.

A conversation with him also reveals his erudition concerning the historical evolution of intellectual-property laws. The first codification of intellectual property can be traced to the Jewish laws codified in the Talmud, which declared a prohibition against "Gnevat ha data" - literally the theft of ideas. The type of ideas subject to theft and further explanation may be found in the Shulkhan Arukh, according to the literature.

But the term intellectual property appears to have originated with French author A. Nion. In his "Droits civils des auteurs, artistes et inventeurs," published in 1846, he used the term "propriete intellectuelle." The term did not come into significant global usage until the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was created in Geneva in 1967.

Mr. Haug, however, isn't necessarily enthusiastic about the effectiveness of global bureaucracies in adjudicating intellectual-property issues.

"International organizations are only useful up to a point," he said. "They are supported and run by member states - and as a result they bring to those organizations their own particular political, social and economic agendas. As a result, they often cannot agree on the best solutions for intellectual-property issues."

Pranay Gupte,
Senior Writer and Global-Affairs Columnist

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