For more than four decades, Fenwick & West LLP has helped some of the world’s most recognized companies become, and remain, market leaders. From emerging enterprises to large public corporations, our clients are leaders in the technology, life sciences and cleantech sectors and are fundamentally changing the world through rapid innovation.  MORE >

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.  MORE >

From our founding in 1972, Fenwick has been committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both within our firm and throughout the legal profession. For almost four decades, the firm has actively promoted an open and inclusive work environment and committed significant resources towards improving our diversity efforts at every level.  MORE >

FLEX by Fenwick is the only service created by an AmLaw 100 firm that provides flexible and cost-effective solutions for interim in-house legal needs to high-growth companies.  MORE >

Fenwick & West handles significant cross-border legal and business issues for a wide range of technology and life sciences who operate internationally..  MORE >

At Fenwick, we are proud of our commitment to the community and to our culture of making a difference in the lives of individuals and organizations in the communities where we live and work. We recognize that providing legal services is not only an essential part of our professional responsibility, but also an excellent opportunity for our attorneys to gain valuable practical experience, learn new areas of the law and contribute to the community.  MORE >

Year after year, Fenwick & West is honored for excellence in the legal profession. Many of our attorneys are recognized as leaders in their respective fields, and our Corporate, Tax, Litigation and Intellectual Property Practice Groups consistently receive top national and international rankings, including:

  • Named Technology Group of the Year by Law360
  • Ranked #1 in the Americas for number of technology deals in 2015 by Mergermarket
  • Nearly 20 percent of Fenwick partners are ranked by Chambers
  • Consistently ranked among the top 10 law firms in the U.S. for diversity
  • Recognized as having top mentoring and pro bono programs by Euromoney


We take sustainability very seriously at Fenwick. Like many of our clients, we are adopting policies that reduce consumption and waste, and improve efficiency. By using technologies developed by a number of our cleantech clients, we are at the forefront of implementing sustainable policies and practices that minimize environmental impact. In fact, Fenwick has earned recognition in several areas as one of the top US law firms for implementing sustainable business practices.  MORE >

At Fenwick, we have a passion for excellence and innovation that mirrors our client base. Our firm is making revolutionary changes to the practice of law through substantial investments in proprietary technology tools and processes—allowing us to deliver best-in-class legal services more effectively.   MORE >

Mountain View Office
Silicon Valley Center
801 California Street
Mountain View, CA 94041

San Francisco Office
555 California Street
12th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104

Seattle Office
1191 Second Avenue
10th Floor
Seattle, WA 98101

New York Office
1211 Avenue of the Americas
32nd Floor
New York, NY 10036

Shanghai Office
Unit 908, 9/F, Kerry Parkside Office
No. 1155 Fang Dian Road
Pudong New Area, Shanghai 201204
P.R. China
+86 21 8017 1200

John T. McNelis

Partner, Intellectual Property  

Mountain View 650.335.7133



John McNelis represents a wide range of high technology venture capitalists and companies from privately held start-ups to publicly traded corporations and advises these companies on procedures for protecting their intellectual property through patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets. He also counsels these clients on various techniques to enforce their intellectual property rights.

John's practice emphasizes strategic counseling on intellectual property matters including intellectual property diligence and audits, patent counseling, patent post-grant proceedings, and patent prosecution for computer software and hardware technologies and automotive technology. His experience includes such technologies as autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, Internet applications, wi-fi, robotics, solar energy, cleantech, computer aided engineering test and design, formal design verification, three dimensional (3D) graphics, optics, optical communications, communication protocols, speech recognition, microprocessors, virtual networks, power control and memory devices.

John chaired Fenwick’s patent group and managed the firm as a managing partner of Fenwick & West LLP.

John has been honored as a leader in the field of patent law by a variety of organizations including being recognized as a leading patent attorney in the world by Intellectual Asset Magazine (IAM), in the nation by The Legal News, The Legal 500, and Managing Intellectual Property, and in Northern California by Super Lawyers. He has also been a member of a variety of legal organizations including the American Intellectual Property Law Association and the Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Law Association.

John is a frequent speaker on intellectual property topics and has been an invited lecturer for a variety of hearings and seminars including those sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), among other organizations.

John has co-authored two books on patent strategy and patent law in addition to writing many articles on intellectual property trends and strategies.

Selected Publications:

  • A Dramatic Year in Patent Law, Aspatore Thought Leadership, Patent Law 2009, Aspatore Books (2008).
  • Developing the Right Strategy, Inside the Minds, Patent Law Client Strategies, Aspatore Books (2007).
  • A Powerful Patent Strategy … Provisionally: A provisional application is part of a powerful patent strategy, but only if the provisional application is prepared properly. If the provisional application does not fully and completely describe the invention, it will do more harm than good due to the false sense of security it engenders.
  • The Damages Trap: While the addition of computer program product claims can increase the number of direct infringers of a patent, the assertion of the computer program product claims may actually decrease the damages to which the patentee is entitled.
  • Significant Changes in U.S. Patent Laws: A summary of the many changes to U.S. Patent law based upon the Intellectual Property and Communications Omnibus Reform Act (American Inventors Protection Act) of 1999.
  • A New Defense to Patent Infringement: The American Inventors Protection Act provides a first inventor defense for existing methods of doing or conducting business.
  • New Designs: Licenses May be Evidence of the Nonobviousness of an Invention: When attempting to overcome an obviousness rejection from the USPTO a patent practitioner can identify licenses and other evidence that demonstrates the commercial success of a claimed invention and then clearly explain the nexus between the evidence and the claimed invention in order to maximize its evidentiary value.
  • Patent Strategy and Management: A product clearance strategy based on the publication requirements of the American Inventors Protection Act.
  • U.S. Patent Applications to be Published: The Intellectual Property and Communications Omnibus Reform Act (American Inventors Protection Act) of 1999 required the publication of many U.S. patent applications.