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Christa Anderson Named One of the 20 Most Influential Women In IP Law


Law360 honored Christa Anderson and 19 other women who have made outstanding achievements in the male-dominated field of intellectual property law.

Christa Anderson

Capitalizing on her deep knowledge of science and technology, Keker & Van Nest LLP's Christa Anderson has helped steer tech giants including Google Inc. to victories in numerous headline-grabbing intellectual property cases, earning her a place among Law360's Most Influential Women In IP Law.

Based in San Francisco, Anderson has served as first- or second-chair trial counsel as part of an intellectual property team at Keker & Van Nest that has represented some of the country's largest technology companies in patent and copyright disputes. Among her accomplishments, Anderson scored victories for Google in multiple cases, including its sweeping win over infringement claims lodged by Oracle Corp., as well as successful results for companies such as SanDisk Corp., Intel Corp. and Broadcom Corp.

"I consider myself fortunate to represent Google," Anderson said. "It's a wonderful company that's always involved in fascinating, cutting-edge technologies."

Anderson was second chairwoman for Google in its high-stakes $6 billion patent and copyright war with Oracle, a closely watched case alleging that Google's Android smartphone operating system had infringed Oracle's patents and copyrights by replicating the functionality of Oracle's Java software.

In May 2012, a jury found that the Android software, which powers hundreds of millions of smartphones and tablets, did not infringe Oracle's patents, a decision that was seen by many attorneys as a sweeping victory for Google.

The patent win came several weeks after a jury said in a mixed ruling that Google had infringed the Java application programming interfaces, or APIs, but was unable to determine whether Google's use of the programming language was protected under the fair use doctrine.

A California federal judge later overturned the jury's decision, saying that the API code was an unprotectable "method of operation." The decision let Google off the hook for more than $1 billion in claims that it had infringed Oracle's copyright by replicating the functionality of the widely used Java when it created its successful Android mobile platform in the mid-2000s.

Earlier this year, however, the Federal Circuit reversed the ruling that Oracle's Java software can't be copyrighted and reinstated a verdict that Google's Android operating system infringes but allowed Google to argue on remand that it is protected by fair use.

Robert Van Nest, who led Google's litigation team in the Oracle case, said the matter is complex but that Anderson played in instrumental role as the lead case manager.

"Christa is a talented trial attorney who always thinks ahead and anticipates all the things that can happen in a trial," he said. "She had to plan strategy and anticipate what the other side was going to do. She also handled some of the most difficult witnesses in the case."

In another important case, Anderson was Google's lead counsel in a suit accusing Beneficial Innovations Inc. of violating a licensing agreement between the two parties when it sued several Google customers for infringing the same patents covered under the agreement through their use of Google's DoubleClick ad-serving product.

In January, a jury in the Eastern District of Texas determined that Beneficial's infringement suit flouted its settlement with Google because several of the companies it targeted were Google customers. Google, which had sought only nominal damages in the case, was granted damages by the jury in the amount of $1, as well as nearly $1.4 million in attorneys' fees and court costs the company had sought. The tech giant, led by Anderson, achieved its goal in the case of showing that the settlement agreement it struck with Beneficial applied to the companies that were later named in the subsequent suit.

Drawing on her considerable knowledge of patent law, Anderson notched yet another win for Google last year when, as lead attorney for the tech giant, she helped overcome claims from Suffolk Technologies LLC that Google's AdSense advertising placement technology infringed one of its patents. Anderson won summary judgment for Google on nearly all of Suffolk's claims, a ruling that was subsequently affirmed on appeal.

Catherine Lacavera, director of litigation at Google, lauded Anderson's preparedness and calm demeanor, saying that her manner in court is something judges often appreciate and compliment.

Lacavera specifically cited Anderson's work on both the Oracle case and the Beneficial matter, saying that she was "so pleased to see her [act] as lead counsel" in the latter case.

"Christa is very easy to work with," Lacavera said. "It's reassuring to work with someone so thorough."

Aside from Google, Anderson has also successfully represented various other companies in the tech sector, including SanDisk, Intel and Broadcom. Regarding the latter two companies, Anderson, as second chairwoman, helped secure favorable settlements in disputes with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization over wireless local area network technology.

A mathematics major at Wellesley College, where she graduated summa cum laude in 1991, Anderson always possessed a strong proficiency and interest in math and science, skills which she has been able to integrate smoothly into her tech-focused practice.

"I always loved [those subjects], and practicing IP law means I'm exposed to the things I studied in college while still being a lawyer," Anderson said.

A graduate of Harvard Law School in 1994, Anderson said that each case she handles can serve as a learning experience.

She said trials are her favorite part of practicing law, saying that they offer an opportunity for her to take something complex, such as a particular technology, and present it to a jury in a way that is relatable. She said she enjoys the process of looking for relevant examples and good anchors to help explain difficult concepts to juries.

Anderson noted that presenting witnesses and examining witnesses can be the best part of a trial for her. She said juries generally want to know what witnesses are like and whether they are honest and careful.

"When I think about how to prepare a witness, I try to think about it from the perspective of the person who hears it," she said. "It's a great opportunity to show a jury the great people that work for your client."

Similarly, a cross-examination is an opportunity for her "to tell the whole story of a case, and not just one side that a jury has already heard but do it in a way that is effective," Anderson said.

After beginning her legal career 20 years ago in Boston, Anderson made the move to San Francisco to join Keker & Van Nest in 1996 and hasn't looked back, saying that she considers herself lucky to have found the firm. Recalling the "rigorous" nature of the interview process at the time, Anderson said she joined the firm largely because she liked the personalities of the people already there.

"My instinct to join the firm was true," Anderson said. “It's a wonderful place, and it's great to work with smart people who believe in balancing family and law. I love California and could never see myself moving to another firm.”

Van Nest, who has been a colleague of Anderson's for over 15 years, said that she is "one of the most upbeat, optimistic and positive people you'll ever meet — all important qualities at a litigation firm."

"She instills great confidence in all her clients," he added. "They can give her a problem and sleep at night knowing that she's going to work and never let anything get missed."

While intellectual property law is a traditionally male-dominated field, Anderson said that the environment for women in the field has gotten better over the past decade.

"There are a lot of young, successful tech companies with young employees who don't divide the world along sex lines and are more open to talking to women about tech issues," Anderson said.

Anderson said that women bring an important perspective to intellectual property matters, particularly since many jurors are women, and it is important to have balance on any litigation team.

For young female attorneys in the field, Anderson also said it is important that they be assertive while still maintaining a balance with vibrant parts of their life outside of law.

"Being a well-rounded person is important because your job as an attorney is to communicate," Anderson said. "Keeping all parts of your life in place makes you … better able to communicate to a jury."