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Our Firm's History

Fenwick & West was founded in 1972 in the heart of Silicon Valley—before “Silicon Valley” existed—by four visionary lawyers who left a top-tier New York law firm to pursue their shared belief that technology would revolutionize the business world and to pioneer the legal work for those technological innovations. In order to be most effective, they decided they needed to move to a location close to primary research and technology development. These four attorneys opened their first office in downtown Palo Alto, and Fenwick became one of the first technology law firms in the world.

From that moment, Fenwick has been inextricably entwined with the history and growth of technology. We incorporated Apple, took Oracle and eBay public and over the years have represented many leading technology companies and their underwriters in numerous high profile IPOs and M&A transactions, including the largest Internet merger in history and the largest software merger in history. Our intellectual property practice has continuously been on the cutting edge of legal issues arising from emerging technologies, from the pioneering of shrinkwrap license agreements in the 1970s, to the creation of software development clean rooms in the 1980s, to being one of the first firms to advise and litigate numerous Internet-related IP issues that arose in the 1990s, including privacy, digital copyright, software patent and domain name issues.

Fenwick’s uninterrupted history of handling landmark transactions, disputes and legal innovations includes the following:

  • Incorporated Apple Computer in 1976
  • Pioneered the first shrink-wrap license agreement in 1976
  • Negotiated one of the first software license agreements with then 19-year entrepreneur Bill Gates
  • Created the first software "clean room" protocols—for Wang Laboratories—which later became the industry standard for developing software to withstand IP infringement claims
  • Secured the first copyright registration for a graphic interface
  • Registered one of the first business method patents for software
  • Took Oracle public in 1986, took eBay public in 1998 and completed more than 140 IPOs since then, including Electronic Arts, Symantec, Intuit and VeriSign
  • Handled some of the earliest, watershed software IP infringement battles, including Lotus v. Borland,Adobe v. Macromedia, Brown Bag Software v. Symantec, Amazon.com v. Barnesandnoble.com, Righthaven v. Democratic Underground 
  • Successfully defended Amazon.com's 1-Click® patent just in time for the 1999 holiday shopping season
  • Successfully defended Elan Pharmaceuticals' patents on transgenic mice
  • Handled the largest Internet merger in history (VeriSign's $21 billion acquisition of Network Solutions) and the largest software merger in history (Symantec's $13 billion acquisition of VERITAS)
  • Handled one of the largest collection of data and records in a civil case, which ultimately led to one of the largest IP litigation settlements in history, a $400 million recovery for our client Compuware
  • Developed innovative due diligence technologies, post-closing integration processes and alternative billing arrangements for serial acquirers upon our selection as Cisco Systems’ primary outside corporate counsel

Fenwick Today

With more than 300 attorneys and 500 employees firm-wide, we have nationally ranked practices in complex financial and commercial transactions, intellectual property protection and licensing, mergers and acquisitions, “bet-the-company” litigation, domestic and international tax planning and tax controversies. And because technology companies were some of the first to tackle globalization, Fenwick has handled international outsourcing, IP prosecution and enforcement, foreign investment, acquisitions and international tax issues for our clients continuously since the 1980s.

Perhaps our greatest legacy and the reason for our continued success is the quality of our people and the culture on which Fenwick & West was built. Our lawyers possess a deep understanding of the technology and science behind our clients’ businesses and, as a firm, we have always been committed to delivering the highest level of service in the most efficient, effective way possible, while maintaining a collegial and collaborative environment based on mutual respect.​​​​​