William F. Lee

Eli Goldston Visiting Lecturer on Law

Winter 2018


Bill Lee is a partner at WilmerHale and is one of the country’s foremost intellectual property and commercial litigation attorneys. His trial and appellate experience is extensive. Mr. Lee has tried more than 200 cases and has argued more than 75 appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and other appellate courts. He recently served as co-lead trial counsel for Apple in the highly publicized cases between Apple and Samsung.

From July 1987 through June 1989, Mr. Lee served as associate counsel to Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh in the Iran-Contra investigation. He also has served as a special assistant to the Massachusetts Attorney General to investigate alleged incidents of racial bias in the Commonwealth’s courts.

Mr. Lee received a B.A. from Harvard University in 1972, an M.B.A. from Cornell Business School in 1976, and a J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1976.

Mr. Lee has served on the Board of Overseers for Harvard University, the Visiting Committee at Cornell Law School, and is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. As a visiting professor at Harvard Law School, Mr. Lee has taught intellectual property litigation and the Problem Solving Workshop for first-year students. In July 2010, Mr. Lee was appointed a Fellow of the Harvard Corporation and became the Senior Fellow in June 2014.

William F. Lee & A. Douglas Melamed, Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Patent Damages, 101 Cornell L. Rev. 385 (2016).
Property Law
Civil Practice & Procedure
Intellectual Property - Patent & Trademark
Type: Article
atent law is implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, based upon a story of patent infringement in which technology users are presumed to be able to discover relevant patents in advance and either design around them or negotiate patent licenses before using the patented technology. That story does not hold true in many fields today, in which the number and widespread ownership of potentially relevant patents renders such preclearance both infeasible as a practical matter and undesirable as a matter of economic policy. But patent damages law continues to apply this outmoded paradigm. As a result, current doctrine perpetuates a vicious cycle of excessive, socially harmful remedies. We propose a number of ways for patent law to adapt to this new reality. First, reasonable royalty remedies should be based on the market value of the patent before infringement and should exclude post-infringement considerations such as lock-in that infect current doctrine and lead to exaggerated damages awards. Second, patent remedy law should distinguish between infringers in the paradigmatic story, who can be regarded as guilty infringers, and innocent infringers for whom preclearance was not practicable; and it should further distinguish between patent holders that were willing to license their patents before infringement and those that had decided to retain exclusive control over their patented invention. In effect, there are four combinations: innocent/willing, innocent/unwilling, guilty/willing, and guilty/unwilling. Remedies should depend on which combination is at issue, and injunctions should be available only for unwilling licensors. In the innocent/unwilling scenario, the patent holder should be able to obtain an injunction only if it agrees to bear the innocent infringer’s costs of switching to a noninfringing alternative.
Ben W. Heineman, Jr., William F. Lee & David B. Wilkins, Lawyers as Professionals and Citizens: Key Roles and Responsibilities in the 21st Century (Harv. Law Sch. Ctr. on the Legal Profession 2014).
Legal Profession
Legal Services
Type: Other
This essay presents a practical vision of the responsibilities of lawyers as both professionals and as citizens at the beginning of the 21st century. Specifically, we seek to define and give content to four ethical responsibilities that we believe are of signal importance to lawyers in their fundamental roles as expert technicians, wise counselors, and effective leaders: responsibilities to their clients and stakeholders; responsibilities to the legal system; responsibilities to their institutions; and responsibilities to society at large. Our fundamental point is that the ethical dimensions of lawyering for this era must be given equal attention to—and must be highlighted and integrated with—the significant economic, political, and cultural changes affecting major legal institutions and the people and institutions lawyers serve.

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