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Lilly lawyer is leader in patent reform

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In-House Counsel

Robert A. Armitage never intended to be a lawyer, let alone a corporate counsel representing one the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

But when his chosen path in physics began drying up because of dwindling government funding for science, the Michigan native looked to law school and took what he saw as an enormous risk.

Three decades later, the Indiana lawyer has been designated as one of the top 25 intellectual property attorneys in the country and serves as a senior vice president and general counsel for Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Company. And he recently experienced one of the most satisfying moments of his professional life: the passage of sweeping U.S. patent reform that he’s been advocating for since graduating from law school.

“Being in-house added a totally unexpected dimension to my career, but this third leg has been one of the most exciting parts so far,” he said. “Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment, but I’ve not had a day that hasn’t been interesting and challenging in some way. I think the legal challenges you see here are more than enough to occupy your mind professionally.”
 

armitage-robert-15col.jpg Robert A. Armitage is a senior vice president and general counsel for Eli Lilly and Company based in Indianapolis. He’s been a leader in the intellectual property area of law during his legal career, and he’s been a leading advocate for U.S. patent reform. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Armitage grew up in Michigan and received a master’s degree in physics from the University of Michigan in 1971 with plans for a career in that field. But it was a tough time and the career outlook wasn’t good, he recalls.

He changed his course and went to law school. He remembers his first exposure to intellectual property law, and thinking that he’d never want a career in that practice area.

“My perception was that this was some crazy area of law where you have no idea what the law is even about,” Armitage said. “It’s an unusual field of law, in part, because we’ve had these types of issues and laws for 200-plus years. So, it was a little strange, a few months later, to think that this might be an interesting employment opportunity to go in-house as a patent lawyer.”

Armitage earned his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1973, but his preferred employer – Eli Lilly in Indianapolis – turned him down because the company didn’t hire directly out of law school. So he went to work for the first 20 years of his career at the Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Mich., before mergers eventually made it a part of Pfizer in the 1990s. There, he served as chief IP counsel and led the patent division.

In 1993, Armitage left the corporate counsel world for private practice and moved his family to Washington, D.C., becoming a partner at Vinson & Elkins and thinking he would spend the other half of his legal career there. But six years later, another opportunity came knocking and gave him the chance to return to Indiana, taking a position at the place he had originally wanted to work.

On Oct. 1, 1999, Armitage took a position leading Eli Lilly’s intellectual property division. He served in that role until becoming general counsel in 2003.

His influence in the area is wide ranging: Armitage is a member and past president of the American Intellectual Property Law Association and the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel, and is also a past chair of the patent committee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the National Council of Intellectual Property Owners and National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. He is a leader in the American Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Section.

In 2010, American Lawyer ranked him among the top 25 IP attorneys in the country, in part because of his leadership in negotiating the Pathway to Biosimilars Act, legislation that created a way for generic biologic drugs to get approval.

Similar to other pharmaceutical companies, Armitage said, half the legal group at Eli Lilly focuses on patents while the other half is divided up between other topics the company might face. Responsible for $4 billion to $5 billion in research and development efforts annually, the company has about 40 patent lawyers and just as many working on the other issues. Armitage said Lilly has worked in recent years to establish a legal infrastructure outside the U.S. because of increasing globalization.

“You need a local legal infrastructure in place, but one that’s pretty well-wired together and has a global legal perspective to know what’s happening in other parts of the world,” he said.

Armitage travels the world going to conferences and also meeting with clients and attorneys associated with Lilly and others in the industry. A typical day defies the definition of “typical,” Armitage says, since it usually varies dramatically depending on continuing legal challenges and whatever the emerging legal issue of the day might be.

Mostly, he focuses on strategic legal environment issues – or whether better ways might exist for the civil justice system to work for the company, he said. That could include reviewing potential product liability issues, reviewing contracts and deciding what partnerships might be worth exploring.

He’s hit rough spots through the years, being the legal chief in charge of navigating the murky waters of pharmaceutical regulations, the patent system and the emerging biofuels industry. He was on the losing side in Lilly’s legal woes in 2000 when unsuccessfully attempting to retain U.S. patent protection on antidepressant Prozac, its top seller at the time. He’s been at the front line of mass liability lawsuits by patients and patent attacks from three generic drugmakers involving the drug Zyprexa, and he’s been a part of Lilly settling many lawsuits out of court. Armitage said patent challenges will likely continue in the years ahead as more of Lilly’s patents are set to expire and generate more generics.

“The past decade or so has seen some difficult challenges, but I’m still standing,” he said.

One of Armitage’s proudest moments came in September when he saw 30 years of his advocacy for patent reform become a reality.

After almost a decade of negotiations, this year Congress passed what is called the America Invents Act, described as the most sweeping patent reform in 60 years. The president signed the legislation in mid-September, with Eli Lilly chief executive officer John Lechleiter standing nearby. Armitage said he took personal pride in seeing that, especially after his decades of work on reform and testifying before Congress on the topic.

“I’ve been for three decades trying to clarify, modernize and simplify patent law,” he said. “One of the most gratifying things to me, now after 30 years of effort, is to have what I think is an amazingly improved patent law system that’s more transparent to the public. I’m proud of the U.S. for having what’s probably the best, and probably the first 21st century patent system in the world.”•
 

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  1. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  2. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  3. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  4. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  5. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

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