Alumni Spotlight

Manny Pokotilow ’64: High-Profile, High Energy

by, Brad Dwin

It’s quite remarkable to see the list of landmark cases in which Manny Pokotilow ’64 has been involved over the past four decades as one of the country’s foremost intellectual property law litigators.

As a patent examiner in the 1960s, he issued the patent for the world’s first programmed computer, a patent for the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer) that had been in dispute since the 1940s.

“I worked at the Patent Office during the day and attended WCL at night. This was at a time when computers were clearly becoming the wave of the future and I spent hours poring over the multitudes of patent applications related to computers. I was one of the original ‘techies’ and the knowledge of computers that I gained from my time at the Patent Office was priceless,” recalls Pokotilow.

As a student in the evening division, Pokotilow remembers that there were no frivolous assignments, no busy work. “Faculty in the evening division were very understanding
of those of us who had to attend law school at night. Everything we were assigned was really important.”

In the 1980s, he took on Apple Computers as the attorney for a company that was creating Apple clones (Apple Computer vs. Franklin Computer). Pokotilow successfully
argued that Apple’s copyright infringement suit was not valid since a computer’s functional parts are more applicable to patent protection and not copyright protection. In the 1990s he represented a convenience store chain, and won, in one of the first cases ever tried under the 1995 Trademark Dilution Act (Wawa, Inc. vs. HaHa).

Most recently, Pokotilow was involved in a high-profile patent infringement case as the attorney representing a generic drug company in a case that involved the highly popular heart drug, Plavix (Syntex vs. Apotex). In fact, this type of case, which involves ANDA (Abbreviated New Drug Application) litigation, has become an extremely complex and highly specialized area of patent litigation. Pokotilow, managing partner, and his firm – Caesar, Rivise, Bernstein, Cohen & Pokotilow, Ltd. – have been very involved in this area of the law in recent years.

While Pokotilow’s career has been highlighted by high-profile cases, he is well-known in Philadelphia circles for his tireless efforts in pro bono endeavors and charitable causes. He is a co-founder of the Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The committee brings parties together with an approved mediator so that out-of-court settlements can be reached, a function that Pokotilow believes is important due to the high cost of litigation and the over-taxed court system.

He is a member of the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, a group that enforces copyrights for local artists and authors.

Pokotilow is best-known, however, as the founder (and still co-chair) of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Annual Charity Run, a race started in 1980 that is still going strong today. The idea for the race came to him after he completed the New York City Marathon in 1979. To date, the event has raised more than $2 million for the Support Center for Child Advocates, a charity that was introduced to Pokotilow by a friend several years ago. In 2008, the event raised $110,000 for the Support Center.

“The Support Center serves a crucial function in that it provides attorneys for children with abusive parents. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than a child not having the support of his or her parents. The race has gone a long way in raising the profile of the center and we are extremely grateful for our sponsors, participants and volunteers,”
Pokotilow explains.

In addition to these charitable causes, Pokotilow gives back to WCL as a donor and the supporter of a scholarship. “I believe it is important to stay involved with the school,” Pokotilow notes. “I have a terrific life doing the best job in the world. There’s not much more that you can ask for from life.”