The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Dustin Guzior, Partner—Litigation
Dustin Guzior is a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell’s Litigation group. His practice focuses on antitrust and intellectual property matters, as well as complex commercial disputes in arbitration proceedings and trials. He has represented clients in connection with merger clearance in a range of industries, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, financial products and services, industrial equipment, energy semiconductor technology, and banking. Mr. Guzior also has represented clients in patent infringement, patent licensing, trade secret, and commodities and securities disputes. He has participated in trials before the bench, jury, and arbitral panels.
Additionally, Mr. Guzior’s pro bono service has included helping the ACLU invalidate as unconstitutional Arkansas’ de facto ban on adoption by same-sex couples and helping the ACLU to overturn North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. He also helped secure accommodations for a deaf prison inmate serving a life sentence in a federal penitentiary.
Mr. Guzior has been recognized as a New York Metro Rising Star by Super Lawyers (2019) and was named to the National LGBT Bar Association & Foundation “Best LGBTQ+ Lawyers Under 40” list (2019).
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
I practice in intellectual property and antitrust primarily. In intellectual property, my practice ranges from district court litigations, cases that are heading to trial for patent infringement or misappropriation of trade secrets, all the way through to transactional work, organizing patent pools and providing advice about how patent licensing programs should work. Within antitrust, I gravitate toward cases with a technology or IP dimension to them, so I tend to work on antitrust projects for technology companies and have been working on issues associated with the so-called “Big Tech” investigations that the FTC and DOJ launched this past year. I also do a fair amount of merger clearance work.
While that’s the centerpiece of my practice, at S&C we have a generalist approach, and the clients I have in the IP and antitrust spaces often send other types of cases in my direction. For example, I’ve started to focus on litigating M&A disputes, either in the context of post-closing disputes or litigation surrounding the closing of a deal. In a nutshell, there’s a wide range to the work I do—which is typical of lawyers at S&C—but I generally focus on cases with a technology component to them.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent a number of technology clients, but within that set, there is again a very broad range, from companies that focus on chemistry and genetics technologies to companies that focus on medical devices, pharmaceuticals, electronics, or computer system inventions.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I’ve worked on a number of cases for Bayer, I work with professors at Columbia University who focus on computer systems technology, and I’ve been collaborating with a number of other universities, which is incredibly exciting. I’ve also done work for Blackberry, Dolby, Cisco Systems, and IBM, to name a few. So, while my work focuses on technology, the type of technology on which my clients focus is quite broad.
How did you choose this practice area?
On the antitrust side, this field sort of chose me. I didn’t join S&C thinking I would become an antitrust lawyer, but I had two really great mentors—both of whom focused on antitrust—and I found the analysis fascinating. It’s an area of the law where—with some exceptions—there aren’t bright-line rules. You have tremendous opportunity to devise novel arguments that may advance your client’s position.
It was a bit more of a natural draw on the IP side. I have a background in the hard sciences: My undergraduate degree is in physics and biological chemistry, and I spent several years as a research scientist at the University of Chicago in the areas of immunology and virology. I really enjoy using my background in my capacity as a lawyer and learning technology in the context of my clients’ cases.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
There’s a huge range to what I do from day to day. In any given week, I could be in court, preparing for a jury trial or a hearing or participating in meetings with government regulators or with our clients’ executives to help them understand a particular transaction. Recently, for example, I was in Washington meeting with the assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division, discussing an acquisition in the oil pipes industry. The next week, I was in Richmond, VA, doing a Markman argument in district court. A lot of time also is spent providing practical advice to clients to solve their issues in a less formal setting, such as litigation or antitrust risk assessment during negotiations. As much fun as it is to score a big win in court, it’s also very satisfying to think through and solve a problem with a client in the background.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I would encourage students who are interested in antitrust to familiarize themselves with the larger concepts that are essential to understanding our practice, like the merger clearance process, as there is a great deal of work being done in that space. Some ways to do this are by reviewing the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department’s guidelines and policy statements and to study the few litigated merger cases on record, like the trial transcript for AT&T/Time Warner. A lot of the “law” for antitrust is not what you will find in a typical textbook for a law school course.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
I frequently hear from law students that they think they need a technology background to become an IP lawyer or that they need an economics background to become an antitrust lawyer. Some of the greatest IP trial lawyers have no science or technology background; rather, they’re former assistant U.S. attorneys who are highly skilled at explaining to a jury the merits of their client’s position. I would encourage any student who is interested in IP or antitrust to pursue those fields regardless of their undergraduate background or work experience.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
What’s unique about S&C comes back to our generalist approach. The joy of practicing at a firm like ours is that you could be doing a different thing every week of the year. My focus may be on IP and technology, but the scope of my practice is incredibly broad: One day, I might be drafting transaction documents for a patent pool, but another day, I might be doing more traditional litigation activity for a patent infringement or trade secret case. Or a client may come to us with a new problem related to work we’ve done for them: For example, an M&A dispute may evolve into us acting as lead counsel in a breach of M&A agreement arbitration. The scope of my practice is quite broad and dynamic. I like to think that my training as a lawyer at S&C allows me to help clients with many of their legal issues.
How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?
In the IP space, I think we’re going to see a shift back to pro-patent and pro-inventor stances. Over the past decade, the patent laws have swung very much in favor of licensees or technology implementers, which has meant that patents have become easier to invalidate. I foresee us moving to a middle ground that is a bit more “patent-owner” friendly.
The antitrust space continues to evolve as well, and I tell associates this is an extremely interesting time to be an antitrust lawyer. Enforcers, for example, have become more aggressive—particularly on the merger clearance side—and regulators are starting to think more carefully about whether transactions should be cleared as industries continue to consolidate. The DOJ and FTC just published draft vertical
merger guidelines, for example, and the “Big Tech” investigations and surrounding discussions include grumblings of potential major changes to antitrust law in the not-too-distant future.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
There are many different paths you can pursue. Intellectual property cases tend to be tried more frequently than other cases, and if you pursue a career in IP, you may end up becoming a first-chair trial attorney. Or, you may decide to focus on administrative actions—and practice before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board—or transactions. On the antitrust side, it’s very common to pursue a career in government and work on competition cases for the Antitrust Division or Federal Trade Commission. Many lawyers choose to stay in government and advance in those roles, but many also return to private practice with that experience under their belts.