Hanley Flight & Zimmerman Among Top 5 Large Law Firms for Best Patent Quality

Hanley Flight & Zimmerman is honored to be recognized among Patent Bots®, top 10 large patent law firms in its fourth annual Patent Quality Rankings. HFZ ranked fifth in the 2023 rankings, another reason why HFZ is trusted by the best companies to protect their innovations.

In conducting its analysis, Patent Bots reviewed more than 300,000 patents issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in the past year and ranked firms who issued at least 500 patents in the last calendar year based on the average number of errors in their patents.

HFZ moved up in this year’s large law firm ratings from eighth last year. See the full list at Patent Bots®.

Meet the Team at HFZ: 5 Questions with Patent Attorney Sergio Filice

Sergio Filice is going on his 16th year at Hanley Flight & Zimmerman, where his practice focuses on patent prosecution and patent portfolio development in the mechanical and electro-mechanical arts.

He works with inventors and engineers to quickly grasp and analyze their inventions and provides the highest level of quality and protection for their intellectual property.

“I have been blessed to have been part of this journey with HFZ,” he said.

We recently sat down with Sergio to learn more about how he became a patent lawyer and why HFZ is the best place for him to practice.

Why did you decide to practice patent law?

As a high school senior, Sergio was interested in pursuing a career in either law or engineering. He chose the engineering path because he was always fascinated with how things work and operate.

After graduation, Sergio became a mechanical engineer at Abbott Laboratories, where he was introduced to the patent team that conducted patentability searches on the designs that his team were developing.

“I enjoyed reviewing patents as they provided an in-depth description of how a particular technology worked,” he said. “This was fascinating for me because I always had a desire for learning about new technologies.”

While Sergio enjoyed his time at Abbott as a design engineer, his dream was to become an attorney, so he entered law school.

“I realized that as a patent attorney, I was able to mesh the two worlds of engineering and law,” he said.

What attracted you to join HFZ?

The fact that HFZ is a patent boutique firm was very attractive during Sergio’s employment search as a patent attorney.

“I knew that working at HFZ would allow me to develop strong patent drafting and prosecution skills and best practices,” he said. “During my interview with Mark Hanley, Jim Flight and Mark Zimmerman, I was also impressed with HFZ’s two-tier review process and I knew that I would be able to gain the most training and experience at HFZ.

“After my interview, I knew that this was the firm where I wanted to practice. The founders established an atmosphere where everyone collaborates as a team, which results in a high-quality work product.”

How does the team at HFZ work together?

“We have an open-door policy that allows me to walk in anyone’s office at any given time to ask questions about a particular matter or case that I’m working on,” Sergio said. “This allows me and other HFZ team members to bounce ideas to improve the quality of our client’s IP. This is a great addition to HFZ’s training process which allows our team to improve our skills while working in a collaborative manner.”

Unlike other firms, HFZ employs a very collaborative approach to representing its clients. While many firms operate as a series of silos, where each partner operates independently and often competes with other partners for resources to service his or her clients, HFZ has strictly avoided such a traditional approach. Founders Mark Hanley, Jim Flight, and Mark Zimmerman have never had a competition for resources, but instead set the tone to ensure HFZ always operates as a team that makes certain the best resources are allocated to complete each project in an efficient and effective manner.

What else makes HFZ a great place to work?

“I really enjoy the variety of technologies that I’m able to work on at HFZ. Unlike other firms that might silo their attorneys to a single client, HFZ’s firm structure enables its attorneys to work with several different clients and technologies.

“We’re also a family-oriented firm that encourages work-life balance. Our yearly hourly requirement is easily attainable through a normal work schedule, providing more time away from the office and with family and friends.”

Why do your clients enjoy working with you and the firm?

“Our clients recognize that HFZ strives to provide IP value when growing their portfolios. I also believe that our clients appreciate our consistent, high-quality work product and they feel very confident in our ability to provide robust IP protection.

“As former design engineers, HFZ patent attorneys work with inventors to identify and develop patentable intellectual property. Rather than simply drafting patent applications and claims, HFZ drafts detailed, forward-thinking patent specifications and creative claims to benefit our client’s business objectives and anticipate competitive activity in our clients’ market space.”

The Practice Group Spotlight: Mechanical

The mechanical practice group at Hanley Flight & Zimmerman is an experienced team that handles a broad range of technologies. And with decades of prosecution acumen, HFZ’s mechanical group strategizes and crafts high-quality and thorough patent applications that lead to robust patents for our clients. Many Fortune 100 clients have retained HFZ for our consistent quality, deep expertise, and dedication to their business interests.

Mechanical and electro-mechanical innovations are diverse and all around us. They are in the sky: airplanes and aerospace technologies. In our hands: in the electronic devices we carry. Rolling on the ground: automobiles and bicycles. In the water: marine equipment.

The innovations that HFZ’s mechanical group protects are also found in medical devices as well as household goods (food and beverage packaging, outdoor cooking products, mailers and binding equipment and child care products) and industrial applications (fluid control devices and systems, door and loading dock equipment, pressure washer equipment, and coil processing & roll forming systems).

Prosecuting patents for such a wide range of innovations requires a team of patent attorneys, agents and analysts who have experience in a breadth of related fields. HFZ’s professionals are mechanical engineers who’ve worked for companies such as Abbott Laboratories, Motorola, Brunswick and Ping Golf, to name a few.

Many of our attorneys gained this industry experience before joining HFZ. By dealing with multifaceted and complex issues in the field, the HFZ team grasps our clients’ innovative technologies quickly. Additionally, many of the practitioners at HFZ employ their previous work experience as engineers to improve the patent applications they prepare.

As former design engineers, HFZ patent attorneys work with inventors to identify and develop patentable intellectual property. Rather than describing the current state of an invention, HFZ works with engineers to craft detailed, forward-thinking patent specifications and creative claims to benefit our clients’ business objectives and anticipate developments in their market space.

“We take a very thoughtful approach to obtaining robust and value-added IP protection for our clients,” said Sergio Filice, an HFZ attorney and one of the leaders of the mechanical practice group. “We understand their underlying business goals and apply prosecution strategies to obtain high-quality patents that help maximize the value and utility of their patent portfolios. Our clients consistently retain us because they can rely on HFZ to deliver outstanding services in accordance with their expectations and requirements.”

In addition to prosecution, the HFZ mechanical team provides counseling, including freedom-to-operate analyses, non-infringement and invalidity opinions, pre-litigation case assessment, litigation support, and trademark procurement.

“At HFZ, our primary focus is on the procurement of patent rights for our clients,” Sergio said. “Preparation and prosecution of patent applications is our core competency as an IP boutique. As a result, our practitioners are immersed in drafting and prosecuting patents on a daily basis. Therefore, unlike litigation-focused firms, patent preparation and prosecution are not a loss leader for us; it is our core competency.”

Furthermore, what sets HFZ apart from other patent law firms is the consistent work product. This is a result of the training program that HFZ provides to its practitioners, as well as the firm’s collegial work environment – which enables attorneys to bring a team-oriented analysis to all our clients’ IP matters.

HFZ attorneys also have extensive experience with IP portfolio development and management. For example, HFZ works with large companies that have significant in-house IP teams as well as smaller companies and universities that may lack their own dedicated IP counsel, and HFZ provides strategic advice in those varying contexts. In some instances, HFZ attorneys provide strategic portfolio management and strategic patent advice to many of our clients in a pseudo in-house counsel role. Some of our practitioners work closely with our clients to harvest invention disclosures and conduct and analyze patentability searches and develop a patentability strategy for our clients. We find that taking a long-term strategic view helps the client, improves our patent application drafting and prosecution, and results in a stronger patent portfolio that is more applicable to clients’ evolving needs.

Additionally, as part of our strategic portfolio development and IP analysis, HFZ is often asked by clients to conduct a competitive landscape analysis (e.g., in anticipation of a new product release, for collaboration or licensing, etc.). For example, clients often approach us for analysis when they are developing new products, as well as when a potential issue comes to their attention. Our partnerships with clients to understand their products and business objectives, as well as their patent portfolio, and to learn their competitive landscape helps us to craft informed, reasoned analyses of the prior art and identify blue sky spaces for innovation.

Further, through our relationships with firms throughout the world, HFZ secures not just U.S., but also international and foreign patent protection and provides strategic guidance relating to foreign patent rights. Our partnerships with foreign counsel have helped us understand the patent landscape of many foreign jurisdictions that aid us in developing comprehensive IP strategies worldwide. For example, in many cases, we draft and prosecute applications with the advice of international attorneys abroad, and, in other cases, we provide advice to international attorneys to assist them in the preparation and prosecution of international patent applications.